Discussions of gender diversity in the workplace, especially in top executive positions and boards, have become a more prominent public concern; however, the advancement of women in these levels has been slow. Gender discrimination and unconscious biases are still obstacles women professionals must face when attempting to climb the corporate ladder. This is especially true for women of color, who represent only one in 25 senior leaders.
One obstacle is a wide gender gap in perspectives on whether women are well represented in leadership positions and the obstacles they may face reaching them. According to a Pew Research Center study, about seven in 10 women believe there are too few women in top executive positions and high political offices, compared to approximately half of men who believe the same.
Women are more likely than men to recognize the structural barriers and high expectations that hold women back from gaining these top positions. About seven in 10 women, compared to half of men, believe that women need to do more to prove themselves in order to attain executive positions. Moreover, while 60 percent of women say gender discrimination is a major obstacle to female leadership in the corporate world and politics, only 44 percent of men think this is true for the corporate sphere—and 36 percent for the political sphere.
A majority of Americans view men and women equally capable of being leaders and having the capacity to possess the key qualities and behaviors essential for effective leadership. This is despite a majority, at 57 percent, who believe men and women in top positions have different leadership styles. Despite these differences, 62 percent do not believe one is better than the other, while 22 percent believe women have a better approach and 15 percent believe men do.
Some believe women have an advantage over men when it comes to being compassionate and empathetic toward others. A substantial amount of Americans also believe that women are better at working out compromises and standing up for what they believe in. In the corporate sphere, 43 percent of Americans believe women are better at creating a safe and respectful work environment, while 52 percent believe there is no difference between men and women in this regard.
Generally, people do not see a difference between the ability of male and female leaders to value people from different backgrounds, consider the social impact of business deals, offer mentorship and guidance, and provide fair pay and good benefits to their employees. However, those who do see a gender difference tend to give women leaders the advantage.
Overall, a majority of Americans say that having more women in top leadership positions in business and government would improve the quality of life for all citizens, at 69 percent, for women specifically, at 77 percent, and for men specifically, at 57 percent. However, women are more likely than men—two-thirds of women compared to 47 percent of men—to say that having more women in top executive positions will be more beneficial for the public.
Desirée Patno is the CEO and president of Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB) and Desirée Patno Enterprises, Inc. (DPE), as well as chairwoman of NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council (NDILC). With 30 years of experience in housing, Patno is a champion for women’s economic growth and independence. In 2017, Entrepreneur.com named her the Highest-Ranking Woman and 4th Overall Top Real Estate Influencer to Follow. For more information, please visit www.nawrb.com.