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Survey: ‘Double Standard’ Keeps Women Out of Boardrooms

Many respondents say women are held to higher standards in corporate America.

By University Alliance on February 26, 2015
Survey: Women Held to Higher Standard in Corporate America

Most Americans believe women are just as capable as men in the business world. They are equally smart and tough and, to many, seen as more compassionate and organized.

Still, women continue to be underrepresented in the top jobs in business.

A new survey suggests that’s, at least partly, because women have to do more to prove themselves. The poll, released in January 2015 by the Pew Research Center, found that 43% of people believe that women are held to higher standards than their male counterparts when it comes to attaining executive-level positions.

A similar percentage of respondents said corporations are not ready to hire women in leadership roles.

The Pew researchers cited statistics showing that women account for about 5% of chief executive officers at Fortune 500 companies and about 17% of board members at those firms.

“We’ve seen women making rapid progress in educational attainment, entering managerial fields, and positioning themselves for leadership, so it’s interesting to see the difficulty women have had in actually making it to the top in the business world,” Pew’s director of social trend research, Kim Parker, told Bloomberg Business.

While motherhood often gets blamed for stalling a woman’s career, only 23% of the more than 1,830 adults polled said women don’t have enough time to climb the corporate ladder because of family commitments.

Additionally, about 20% said women don’t have enough connections to advance to the C-suite.

Less than one in 10 respondents said women aren’t tough enough (9%) or accomplished enough managers (7%) to shatter the glass ceiling.

The survey also asked respondents about the ideal time for a woman seeking an executive position to have children: 40% said having children later was better; 36% said earlier was better; and 22% said the best option would be not to have children.

Among the other findings of the Pew report, 48% of men believe women experience gender discrimination, compared with 65% of women who expressed a similar belief.

In a reflection of persisting gender stereotyping, respondents were much more likely to say that men would be more effective than women at heading a pro sports team but that women would perform better at the helm of a major retailer or hospital.

The survey also sought to gauge public perception as to why women are outnumbered among officer holders in high political positions. Currently, about 19% of the members of Congress are female – a record number and twice the share of two decades ago.

While 38% of respondents said women are held to a higher standard when it comes to political office, 37% said voters aren’t ready to elect women to top leadership positions and 17% said women don’t have enough time to rise in politics because of family responsibilities. 

Category: 2015 Headlines