Lots of Americans Say Double Standards Are Still Holding Women Back 


Strap in, because Pew just released a pretty massive survey of America’s attitudes toward women and leadership. And it turns out our countrymen are increasingly aware of the fact that, wait a minute, maybe there are some double standards and retrograde attitudes blocking women’s paths to the top!

Pew researchers interviewed 1,835 randomly-selected folks back in November, feeling out their thoughts on women and leadership. They found that “most Americans find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, with many saying they’re stronger than men in terms of being compassionate and organized leaders.” Seventy-five percent rated men and women equally qualified as politicians; 80 percent said they were equally qualified as business leaders.

So what’s the most popular theory for why there are so few women in boardrooms and elected office and other positions of leadership?

Instead, topping the list of reasons, about four-in-ten Americans point to a double standard for women seeking to climb to the highest levels of either politics or business, where they have to do more than their male counterparts to prove themselves. Similar shares say the electorate and corporate America are just not ready to put more women in top leadership positions

Of course, that means 6 out of 10 Americans are blaming something else, but that level of awareness is almost alarmingly encouraging! Though it was disproportionately women providing that particular explanation:

Women, generally, were more likely to say women face at least “some” discrimination: 65 percent vs. 48 percent of men. (“A double-digit gender gap on perceptions of gender discrimination is evident across all generations as well as across partisan groups,” the report notes.)

And despite seeing men and women as equally capable in general, stereotypes start to crop up once you dig down into the results:

Most Americans (54%) say men would do a better job running a professional sports team, while just 8% say women would be better at this. And a 46% plurality also give men the edge when it comes to running a large oil or gas company. But the public is two and a half times more likely to say a woman, rather than a man, would do a better job running a major hospital or a major retail chain.

A little tidbit that perhaps speaks to the uphill battle women feel they are climbing—female respondents rated ambition a more critical skill than men:

In addition, women are more likely than men to say that ambition is an essential trait for a leader (57% of women and 48% of men say this is absolutely essential). This overall gender gap is driven by the younger generations—Millennials and Gen Xers. Fully 63% of Millennial women and 61% of Gen X women consider ambition an essential leadership trait, compared with 53% of Millennial men and only 43% of Gen X men.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the drumbeat of support for both Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, Democratic women were the most excited about the prospect of electing a woman president:

38% of all adults say they hope the U.S. will elect a female president in their lifetime; 57% say it doesn’t matter to them. Among Democratic women, fully 69% say they hope the U.S. will elect a female president in their lifetime. This compares with 46% of Democratic men, 20% of Republican women and 16% of Republican men. To be sure, for many Republicans this view may be more about the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency than about a major milestone for women, a perspective that likely influences the way they respond to this “hypothetical” question.

Fuck if anybody knows how best to juggle ambition and kids, though:

The survey also finds that the public is divided over whether a woman with leadership aspirations is better off having children early on in her career (36%) or waiting until she is well established (40%). About one-in-five (22%) say the best option would be to not have children at all.

Your guess is as good as mine!

Image via Getty.

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