NEW YORK, Nov. 17, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- In politics and in business, women continue to face gender-based bias about their ability to lead. According to the results of a nationally representative HerVoice Survey of 1,000 U.S. adults by leading PR firm MWWPR and Wakefield Research, differences between the perceptions and expectations of male and female leadership in Corporate America are prevalent, reflecting generations-old stereotypes about weaknesses of women in leadership. The study was conducted in October, prior to the Presidential election, and comes on the heels of MWWPR's inaugural study earlier this year, which demonstrated bias in media coverage of female leaders relative to their male counterparts.
MISOGYNY IN THE WORKPLACE IS REAL, ELIMINATING IT IS A WOMAN2WOMAN OPPORTUNITY
When Americans were asked about the skills that are most often the yardstick for judging leadership performance and personal career success, the overwhelming majority give men the upper hand. More than three-quarters of respondents describe men as being stronger at delivering financial returns (83 percent) and developing business strategy (79 percent). More than two-thirds believe women are the weaker sex when it comes to negotiation (69 percent). Not surprisingly, respondents give women the edge in "soft skills", but by smaller margins. Slightly less than half of those surveyed (45 percent) describe women as better than men at managing people, and 59 percent give women the advantage in managing work-life balance. Women advance these beliefs, and were more likely to hold these beliefs than men.
"Despite all the successful women in business who have been working to blaze trails for other women, the impact on the deeply held beliefs of the average American remain largely unchanged. Gender bias is a conscious bias, and it has a stronghold on the American psyche," said Carreen Winters, Corporate Reputation Chairperson for MWWPR and leader of the HerVoice practice. "The survey's results are eerily prescient about the results of the recent Presidential election, which had predicted that the first woman would be overwhelmingly elected and break the ultimate glass ceiling."
As expected, women were statistically more likely than men to respond positively to women's capabilities. What was most surprising was the tendency for women to be more likely to reinforce gender stereotypes, revealing an important opportunity for women to help other women through advocacy, on a one-to-one basis and by changing the broader conversation.
"Women have the power, the opportunity and the responsibility to help other women by changing the whole conversation about women and leadership," Winters continued. "For years, the discussion has centered around boosting young girls' self esteem, celebrating women who've blazed trails and finding mentors for women at work. But the need is greater than that. Women in leadership should be radically transparent about the experience of leading as a woman, powering a shift form climbing the ladder to changing the ecosystem to be truly inclusive."
Americans also recognize that women in the workplace face some unique challenges that present barriers to success, including being judged by their appearance (61 percent) and being perceived as not assertive enough (37 percent). Only 17 percent of respondents, however, think a lack of professional connections affects women more. There seems to be a lack of understanding of the full set of challenges that allow women to become successful leaders, such as access to female mentors and role models.
GENDER BIAS IS HERE TO STAY, AT LEAST FOR THE NEXT CENTURY
Both male and female respondents to the HerVoice survey were not optimistic that there would be any meaningful change to gender issues in the workplace any time soon. One-third of Americans doubt that there will be gender parity in their lifetime, while 44 percent of Millennials expect to see gender parity in twelve months.
A study by the World Economic Forum supports the opinion of Americans in the HerVoice Study. WEF's tenth Global Gender Gap Report calculated that the global gender gap will not be eliminated until 2186, a rise of 63 years from the 2015 estimate. The gap between men and women in terms of economic participation and opportunity is now larger than at any time since 2008 – and the U.S. ranks 45th overall.
"Americans believe they will be able to vacation on Mars sooner than they expect to see gender parity in the workplace. The honesty of these respondents suggests that gender bias may be among the most tolerated forms of bias in the workplace today," Winters added. "The optimism of Millennials on this topic provides hope for the future and a prescription for change, even if their expectations about timing are unrealistic."
CEO ADVOCACY ALSO BOOSTS COMPANY REPUTATION
The results of this survey provide a prescription for changing attitudes and perceptions on the issue of gender parity, and the issue of mistrust of large organizations in general. More than two-thirds of Americans (68%) indicated that a highly visible CEO is a sign of a trustworthy company.
"A trusted leader has the highest potential to change perceptions and attitudes," Winters concluded. "Leaders, particularly women leaders, have a responsibility to demonstrate a commitment to gender parity in their policies and actions. And even more importantly, to be vocal about this issue. Changing the conversation is the first step to changing the expectations, and the workplace experience. The good news is that this is a prime of example where doing what is right is also good for business, as this increased visibility of leaders builds trust and ultimately, your company's reputation."
To guide women leaders through this and similar challenges, MWWPR offers "HerVoice", a proprietary practice focused on serving the unique needs of female leaders as they establish their internal and external profiles. HerVoice, launched in April 2016, serves as a specialty focus within MWWPR's Corporate Reputation Practice, and is based on the agency's three decades of experience working with female leaders and the firm's CEO EquityBuilder methodology. HerVoice includes communications and social strategy, platform and message development, media training and program implementation services for women in leadership roles at companies across industries, and at all stages of the leadership lifecycle.
MWWPR is one of the world's top five independent public relations agencies with a global network of eight offices across the US and Europe. A full-service firm that approaches communications without the boundaries of expected thinking, MWWPR's expertise spans Consumer Brands, Technology, Corporate Communications and Reputation Management, Public Affairs, Crisis Communications, LGBT, Entertainment, Sports & Luxury Lifestyle, and Health & Wellness. This year, MWWPR celebrates 30 years of providing strategic communications counsel and public relations support for its diverse client portfolio.
With dedicated insights, strategy, data and analytics, social media, creative and technology teams, MWWPR ensures that clients Matter More™ to the stakeholders who matter most. MWWPR's Matter More™ approach has been recognized by numerous, top industry awards including "Company of the Year," "PR Agency of the Year" and "Top Places to Work in PR," in addition to numerous awards for client work.
To learn more about MWWPR, visit http://www.mww.com or follow us on social @MWW_PR.
About Wakefield Research
Wakefield Research (www.wakefieldresearch.com) is a leading, independent provider of quantitative, qualitative, and hybrid market research. Wakefield Research supports the world's most prominent brands and agencies, including 40 of the Fortune 100, in 70 countries.