More women in the boardroom? Maybe not just yet, survey says

Women account for just 4.6% of the chief executives and 19.6% of the board members of companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer speaks onstage at the FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit on October 17, 2013 in Washington, DC.
(Paul Morigi / Getty Images for FORTUNE)
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Women continue to make strides in politics and in the workplace, but the public isn’t sure they’re ready to challenge the male domination of the corporate boardrooms, according to a new survey.

About 53% of those polled by the Pew Research Center said they believe that men will continue to hold more executive positions in businesses than women, and 44% said it was only a matter of time before women held as many top posts as men.

Though a majority of those polled said there was no difference between men and women when it came to their abilities as business leaders, women were much more likely than men to say double standards prevented them from winning top corporate jobs, according to the survey released Wednesday.


“It’s not that the public thinks women aren’t qualified,” said Kim Parker, Pew’s director of social trends research. “The public is really pointing to deeper societal barriers.”

When asked why there aren’t more women in executive positions, for instance, 52% of women polled said they were held to higher standards than men. Only 33% of men held the same view.

The report also found a double-digit gender gap over whether women face discrimination in society today: 65% of women but only 48% of men said women face a lot or some discrimination.

Women account for just 4.6% of the chief executives and 19.6% of the board members of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, according to a census of women in business released Tuesday by the nonprofit research group Catalyst.

“Because there have been so many men in visible leadership roles the idea of what leadership looks like tends to be stereotypically male,” said Deborah Gillis, Catalyst’s chief executive. “We have to break that down.”

Although 80% of Americans said men and women make equally good business leaders, some gender stereotypes persisted -- 54% of respondents said a man would do a better job of running a sports team while 33% said there would be no difference and 8% said a woman would be better.


Pew’s survey found that about 1 in 5 respondents said women’s family responsibilities were a major reason more females weren’t in top positions.

When asked what men and women bring to business leadership, 31% said women were better at being honest and ethical and 64% said there was no difference.

Meanwhile, 34% said men were better at taking risks and 5% said women were better. The majority, 58%, said there was no difference.

Women in politics fared better than in business. A large majority of respondents, 73%, said a woman would be elected president of the United States in their lifetime.

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