Advice column: my new female manager seems to relate to the men but not to me

 Dear Ash

I have been told to report to a new line manager following the departure of my former manager. Although our department has always mainly comprised males, I have never had any issue with being the only female employee. I assumed that as my new line manager was also female, this would be an advantage and perhaps there would be more balance in the department.

However, my new manager is far from supportive and seems to treat me less favourably than my male counterparts. For example, we recently had a team meeting and she was very open to new suggestions and ideas from my male colleagues, but when I attempted to suggest some options she seemed to challenge my ideas and was much more confrontational. It may seem odd but she also seems to smile every time she speaks to my colleagues, but to frown and say she is busy every time I want to discuss things with her. It is still early days, but I am starting to worry about my future in the department.

Ash replies

The male and female dynamic in the office is sometimes still very much based on set stereotypical behaviour. Certain research suggests that female managers are sometimes less sympathetic and more strict than their male counterparts. Perhaps as a way of asserting their authority, some females mistakenly believe that they have to display more aggressive and macho characteristics.

From my own experience, female managers do sometimes feel threatened by their younger female contemporaries, and it may be that you are being tested by your manager as she is trying to give out a clear message that she is in charge. As you say, it is still early days and it may therefore be an idea to keep a low profile for a few days to allow your manager to settle in more fully. When she has been in the role for a bit, she may be more relaxed around you and her attitude may change.

However, if things do not change then do try to raise this directly with your manager. She may be unaware about how she comes across towards you; therefore do try to give her the benefit of the doubt at least initially, even though she seemingly has not given you the same courtesy!

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor: or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, Manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or

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