MWWPR study paints pessimistic picture of workplace gender parity

One-third of respondents don't think society will see gender parity for a century.

NEW YORK: Gender stereotypes exist in the workplace, and they’re more likely to be reinforced by women than men, according to a study released this week by MWWPR.

The survey’s 1,000 respondents declared men stronger leaders in delivering financial returns (83%), developing business strategy (79%), and negotiation (69%). Women were more likely to hold those beliefs than men.

"Views about gender parity are even more pessimistic than expected," said Carreen Winters, EVP of corporate reputation at the firm. "The study was eerily predictive of the surprise on election night."

The workplace continues to shortchange women for leadership skills traditionally seen as masculine, according to the study. Most respondents said women have better "soft skills," such as mentoring and being empathetic, albeit by smaller margins.

Winters added that fixing gender bias begins with acknowledging the problem and raising awareness, laying out a three-step plan.

"The first step is taking away the sigma," she said. "Women in leadership roles are reluctant to talk about their experiences. We call that pink-washing. Next, we have to diversify the conversation: if you’re a woman being interviewed by the media, it’s important to talk about the skills traditionally oriented toward men. Thirdly, women have to do a better job mentoring other women and advocating for them."

A third of respondents said they don’t believe gender parity will be achieved in their lifetimes, though millennials (44%) were optimistic it would be achieved in 12 months. One-third of respondents said they expect gender parity by 2116.

"My gut tells me that their answers were reflective of the salient prediction that [former Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton would be in the White House," Winters said. "If we had taken the poll after the election, they maybe would’ve been even more pessimistic."

MWWPR, which launched HerVoice, a service for female business leaders, partnered with Wakefield Research to conduct the survey in October.

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