There's no doubt that women are equally as qualified as men to lead companies. But even as they continue to make giant strides in every industry — politics, business, you name it — the public still doesn't believe that women are ready to challenge the male domination of corporate boardrooms, according to a new survey.
At least people are aware of the double standards and retrograde attitudes that are holding women back from rising to the top.
Pew researchers interviewed 1,835 randomly-selected people back in November. About 53% of those polled said they believe that men will continue to hold more executive positions in businesses than women, and 44% said it was only a matter of time before women held as many top posts as men.
The issue was not that they believe men make better leaders than women (80% considered them equally qualified). In fact, many said they believed women were actually stronger than men in terms of being compassionate and organized leaders. But four-in-ten people believe that a double standard exists that prevented women from getting top corporate jobs. Yes, this means that 6-in-10 blamed it on something else, but hey, at least there's some awareness.
In other words, much of the public doesn't doubt that women are qualified; they doubt that their peers will believe women are qualified — which points out deeply ingrained societal barriers.
There's a distinct area of disagreement on the topic between the two genders, though. When asked why there aren't more women in executive positions, 52% of women polled said they were held to higher standards than men, and only 33% of men held the same view. Plus, only 48% of men believe women face any discrimination in today's society, compared to women's 65%.
According to a census of women in business released Tuesday by the nonprofit research group Catalyst, women account for only 4.6% of the chief executives and 19.6% of board members of companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index. Pew's survey found that about 1 in 5 respondents said women's family responsibilities were a major reason more females weren't in top positions. If that's not discrimination, I don't know what is.
"Because there have been so many men in visible leadership roles the idea of what leadership looks like tends to be stereotypically male," said Deborah Gillis, Catalyst's chief executive told the Los Angeles Times. "We have to break that down."
Fortunately, most people think that the progress women have made will continue. Perhaps given the popularity of both Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, 73% of respondents said a woman would be elected president of the United States in their lifetime.
It's clear that women are fighting an uphill battle — but they've never shown any signs of surrender. It's encouraging to know how many Americans understand the antiquated attitude of our country. Acknowledgement is the first step toward recovery.