While many people are comfortable with women leading businesses, they don’t feel the same about women at the top of government. This is according to a survey released on Tuesday from data consultancy Kantar and the Women Leaders Global Forum.
The study measured the “Reykjavik Index” which scores perceptions of female leadership among residents across 10 countries with the largest economies, including the U.S, the U.K, Canada and Japan. Australia didn’t make the list.
In its second year, the study is essentially an assessment of how people across society look at women and determine whether or not they think women are suitable to lead.
The top two countries that answered the highest in terms of respondents who said they were “very comfortable” with the idea of women leading a corporation was America and Canada.
However, the U.S came out with the largest gap in terms of ‘comfort’ felt regarding a woman CEO and a woman as a national leader in government.
In fact, only 54% of Americans and less than 50% of American men, admitted to being comfortable with a female head of state.
“What that means is the majority of American men carry a significant prejudice against the idea of female political leadership in the highest office,” Michelle Harrison, Kantar’s global chief executive officer, told CBS News.
Disappointingly, the preference for women in corporations over government reaches beyond the U.S, with folks in the U.K., France, Japan, Germany and Russia expressing similar attitudes of higher levels of comfort with women in businesses as opposed to government.
Here in Australia, we only need to recall the recent history of our first and only female PM, Julia Gillard, to understand these dismaying perceptions.
Gillard’s tumultuous three year term in office was peppered with sexist attacks and personal insults from male public figures. Last year, Gillard told The Australian that she believes female government leaders are treated different due to their gender.
“My predominant emotion isn’t one of disappointment, it’s frustration. Are we there yet? Aren’t we better than this already?” Gillard said.
With the continuation of the evidence provided by the #ReykjavikIndex and a global community of purpose, both public policy and the private sector can further progress to equality in leadership. #Reykjavik19 #PowerTogether @WomenLeadersGF https://t.co/ONKdVTHZ5C
— Silvana Koch-Mehrin (@skochmehrin) November 19, 2019
The study recorded respondents’ gender and found a discrepancy in opinions between men and women. In the U.S and Canada, more women admitted to being comfortable with women’s leadership than men. 10% higher in fact.
The study also broke down opinions about different sectors across industry, including media, education, engineering and healthcare. According to the study, more men and women believed women could lead the media and entertainment industry than any other industry.
Which industry did people believe women were not fit to lead? Defence, police, and automotive manufacturing.
Evidently, the ‘gendering’ of certain fields is damagingly affecting, the realities of women who rise to the top in government.
Michelle Harrison appeared on CBS News and deliberated alongside the anchor Anne-Marie Green about high profile losses such as Theresa May stepping down in the U.K from her PM position and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential loss in the U.S.
“The decline of confidence has mainly come from men,” Harrison said. “Perhaps there’s something about the kinds of political leadership that we are experiencing at the moment, the political trajectories these countries are in, and how they may put back the cause of gender equality.”
So, why do we have these views? The study did not look into this. Harrison suggested that, “The next step then is to understand what can be done deal with these degrees of prejudice.”