Two years after Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party, and with a record number of women running for Congress in 2018, a majority of Americans say they would like to see more women in top leadership positions – not only in politics, but also in the corporate world – according to a new Pew Research Center survey. But most say men still have an easier path to the top and that women have to do more to prove their worth. And the public is skeptical that the country will ever achieve gender parity in politics or in business.
Republicans and Democrats have widely different views about where things stand today and what factors are holding women back. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more than twice as likely as Republicans and those who lean Republican to say there are too few women in high political offices (79% vs. 33%). And while 64% of Democrats say gender discrimination is a major reason why women are underrepresented in these positions, only 30% of Republicans agree.
There are also wide gender gaps in views about women in leadership. About seven-in-ten women say there are too few women in high political offices and in top executive business positions; about half of men say the same. And women are far more likely than men to see structural barriers and uneven expectations holding women back from these positions. About seven-in-ten women – vs. about half of men – say a major reason why women are underrepresented in top positions in politics and business is that they have to do more to prove themselves. And while about six-in-ten women say gender discrimination is a major obstacle to female leadership in each of these realms, smaller shares of men say this is the case in the corporate world (44%) or in politics (36%).
Gender gaps on views of women in leadership are particularly wide among Republicans
By 20 percentage points, Republican women are more likely than their male counterparts to say there are too few women in high political offices (44% of GOP women vs. 24% of GOP men) and in top executive positions in business (49% vs. 29%) in the U.S. today. And while most Republican women say it’s easier for men to get these positions, closer to half of GOP men say the same.
Republican women are also far more likely than Republican men to point to uneven expectations and structural barriers as major reasons why women are underrepresented in political and corporate leadership. For example, a majority of Republican women (64%) – vs. 28% of GOP men – say women having to do more to prove themselves is a major reason why there are fewer women than men in high political offices. About half of Republican women point to many Americans not being ready to elect women (50% vs. 18% of GOP men), gender discrimination (48% vs. 14%) and women getting less support from party leaders (45% vs. 27%) as major reasons.
Americans have different ideas on what traits might be helpful (or harmful) to men and women seeking leadership positions
When asked whether certain personal traits or characteristics would mostly help or mostly hurt men and women seeking to succeed in business or in politics, about seven-in-ten adults say being assertive and ambitious would mostly help a man’s chances in both realms. Closer to half see these traits as helpful to women who are trying to get to the top. In fact, about a quarter say being assertive and ambitious mostly hurts a woman’s chances of getting ahead in politics and business.
Showing emotions is seen, on balance, as being more harmful than helpful to both men and women. Still, more say this hurts female leaders than male leaders. About half (52%) say showing emotions hurts women in politics, 39% say this about men. Smaller shares say this helps men (24%) and women (17%) in getting elected to higher office. The patterns are similar for business leaders.
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