The Female Paradox: Why Women Don’t Want to Work for Female Bosses

Shwetambari Salgar  
Director, Icertis

Boasting over twenty years of distinguished service with leading firms, Shwetambhari's journey is characterised by a dual commitment: as a seasoned professional and an eternal student eager to foster transformative insights that challenge conventional thinking and open doors to fresh opportunities. In her role as Director at ICERTIS, she is entrusted with steering the company's worldwide learning initiatives and organisational growth, while also curating and conducting programs designed to nurture talent and cultivate leadership skills.

As a woman leader for several years, I’ve had the privilege of working with outstanding female leaders and, admittedly, some I would prefer to forget. However, this applies to male leaders as well. To me, leadership is inherently gender-agnostic — a leader is a leader, irrespective of gender.


Throughout history, we’ve had remarkable women leaders like Savitribai Phule, Rani Lakshmibai, Justice Anna Chandy, Anandi Gopal Joshi, Aruna Asaf Ali, Ahilyabai Holkar, Kalpana Kalahasti and internationally recognized figures like Indra Nooyi and Sheryl Sandberg. Yet, their stories are often less told than their male counterparts which undermines the accomplishments of women leaders. We must amplify the success stories of women.


In the corporate world, the number of women in leadership positions is significantly lower than that of men. Although the post COVID workplace offered flexibility through hybrid or remote enabling more women to participate, the struggle for women in C-suite and senior leadership still continues.


With more than two decades of work experience, I’ve encountered women leaders who have left an indelible mark on me. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is the importance of building a strong support system and extending that support to other women. Unfortunately, stereotyping and labelling women in leadership roles is not uncommon. Many women feel compelled to emulate their male counterparts, often neglecting their unique strengths. This results in both women and men not wanting to work with women leaders.


Reluctance to work with female leaders often stems from negative past experiences, high expectations, emotions, unconscious bias, physical appearance, professional jealousy, competition, confidence, assertiveness, and more. 


Additionally, barriers like the broken rung and glass ceiling, societal norms, value systems, workplace culture, better connections, and networking play significant roles in shaping attitudes towards women leadership.


Unless women support each other, achieving inclusivity, parity, and success will remain elusive.


Leadership is gender neutral. Harbouring a mindset that men make better leaders than women needs to go away. The sooner we change our mindset the faster the evolution of a better workplace. 


Let’s work together to keep aside our judgements and perceptions and give fair chances to women based on capabilities and competencies.