Despite women breaking the glass ceiling in several fields, corporate management remains male-dominated. One reason for this could be the advantages men enjoy when socializing with their male manager, suggests new research.

In a new study, Zoë B. Cullen of Harvard University and Ricardo Perez-Trugli of the University of California use administrative data from a large commercial bank in Asia to explore how manager’s gender affected career progression of employees between 2015 and 2018. In particular, they attempt to test the notion that male-to-male bonding, often referred to as the ‘old boys club’, helps men progress in their careers faster than women.

To test this, they compare the effects of switching from a female manager to a male manager within the bank. They find that the career progression of female employees did not change with the gender of the manager. However, male employees placed under a male manager were promoted faster than males reporting to a female manager. According to the authors, one-third of the gender gap in pay in the bank could be explained by this male-male advantage.

While gender biases may affect the manager’s decision on promotions, another channel through which the male-male advantage plays out is socialization and the emotional bond men develop with their male managers over time. Male employees tend to spend more time with male managers. And as this socialization increases so do the chances of promotion. For instance, the authors find that men who smoke with their manager were more likely to be promoted. To address this and close the gender gap, they suggest that companies involve multiple managers and objective indicators in the promotion process.

Also read: The old boys' club: schmoozing and the gender gap

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