Nearly six in 10 people (59%) say that too few women occupy high political offices and top executive business gigs.
A majority of Americans want change, even if many don’t see it on the horizon.
Despite gender and partisan divides, a majority of people say they want to see more women hold top political and corporate positions, a new report from Pew Research Center suggests — with nearly six in 10 people (59%) saying that too few women occupy high political offices and top executive business gigs in the U.S today. (For instance, women hold only a fifth of all congressional seats and 23% of statewide executive seats; they make up about 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs.)
But many respondents remained “skeptical,” Pew noted, of the prospect of gender parity in key business or political leadership roles: Forty-eight percent thought men would continue occupying more top political offices in the future even as more women run for office, and 46% indicated men would keep holding more top exec positions in the future even as women increasingly shift into management.
Men seemed slightly more optimistic than women: 57% of men said they thought it was just a matter of time before there were as many women as men in top political roles, and 59% said the same about top business leadership roles. In contrast, those figures stood at 53% and 52% for women, respectively.
“I think the data clearly shows that most Americans would like to see more women in leadership positions both in business and in politics,” Kim Parker, the director of social trends and demography at Pew Research, told Moneyish, “but it also shows that there’s a pretty high level of skepticism that there will ever be gender parity in these positions — even as we see more women running for office and more women moving into management positions.”
Meanwhile, Americans’ views of women’s current situation and the barriers they face — both in the corporate world and in politics — showed a stark divergence along gender and political lines, according to the online survey of more than 4,500 adults conducted from mid-June to early July.
The proportion of women who thought there were too few women occupying high political offices (69%) and top business leadership positions (70%), for example, far outstripped the percentage of men who indicated the same (48% for both). While 59% of women said gender discrimination was a chief reason why there weren’t more women in high political offices and 62% said that of business positions, those proportions for men were 36% and 44%, respectively.
And while nearly eight in 10 Democrats or Democrat leaners said too few women occupied top political offices (79%) and top executive roles (77%), Republicans and GOP leaners expressed the same views at far lower rates (33% and 38%, respectively). Just three in 10 Republicans chalked up women’s low representation in politics and business to gender discrimination; 64% and 73% of Democrats, respectively, said the same.
What’s more, even with the unprecedented wave of women political candidates in 2018 — a record 257 female primary winners are vying for House and Senate seats this year, for example — women are much more likely now than they were in 2014 to suggest voters aren’t ready to elect a woman to higher office. While 41% of women said so four years ago, the number shot up to 57% this year. (Hillary Clinton, the first female major-party nominee for president, did lose her 2016 bid in the intervening period.)
“It was kind of interesting, and sort of a tone of pessimism among women,” Parker said, “even in the midst of this environment where we’re hearing so much about the women that are running for office.”
Among the majority of respondents (57%) who said they thought women and men in top leadership positions had different styles, six in 10 said neither approach was necessarily better.
But women have a leg up in certain areas of corporate leadership, the survey suggested: 43% suggested women are better at creating a safe and respectful workplace, versus 5% who said that of men; 35% said women are better at valuing people from different backgrounds (3% for men); and 33% said women are better at considering the societal impact of business decisions (8% for men). A majority in each category saw no difference.
“(In) some of these specific workplace issues that are part of the public debate, the public sees women potentially having an edge on men,” Parker said.
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