March 27, 1996 in Nation/World

Poll Finds Workplace Gender Bias World Accepts Women Leaders; Just Don’t Make One My Boss

Mike Dorning Chicago Tribune
 

People around the world would like more women running their countries but prefer to have men in charge of their offices, according to an international Gallup Poll of attitudes toward gender roles.

The survey of public opinion in 22 nations, released Tuesday, found widespread acceptance of gender-based stereotypes. In every country surveyed, respondents - whether male or female - were more likely to describe women as emotional, as talkative and as affectionate.

But the survey also found fading acceptance of the notion that the sexes are unequally intelligent. And it found strong support in every country for the principle of equal job opportunities for both sexes.

Despite their stated support for women in the workplace, people in all 22 countries said they would prefer a male boss.

“In some of the most highly developed countries, where the women’s movement has been strongest, … we find a persistent gender bias in the workplace,” said Lydia Saad, co-managing editor of the Gallup Poll.

In the United States, 46 percent of people surveyed would prefer a man as a boss compared with 20 percent who would prefer a woman. The rest didn’t indicate a preference.

In other countries, the strength of preferences for male over female supervisors ranged from 24-17 in Iceland to 74-15 in Japan. The survey did not include African and Middle Eastern countries.

Even women decidedly preferred male to female bosses in all but three countries surveyed: India, where women preferred to work for women, and El Salvador and Honduras, where women were evenly split in their preferences.

“Women are often less supportive of having female bosses than men are,” Saad said.

Saad and other Gallup pollsters said they have no explanation for the apparently contradictory expression of support for more women in government.

Except in El Salvador, where respondents were evenly split, significant pluralities in each of the countries said they would be “better governed” if more women held political office.

In the United States, 57 percent said the country would be better governed with more women in politics compared with 17 percent who thought the nation would be less well-governed.

Saad also noted strong support for women political leaders in several countries that have been led by female prime ministers, such as Britain (51 percent to 11 percent), France (59-20), Iceland (43-5) and India (50-30).

In an indirect but possibly telling measure of women’s satisfaction with their own place in society, Gallup found a wide variation in the answers given when women were asked if they would rather be reborn a man.

Few American women said they would change their gender - only 8 percent.

But about 1 in 5 women in European and Latin American countries said they would rather live life as a man.

In Asia, women were even more envious of men’s lives. As many as 41 percent of Thai and Chinese women said they would rather be men.

“That’s a pretty good indicator. … It really takes quite a bit for somebody to wish they were a member of the opposite sex,” said David Moore, managing editor of the Gallup Poll.

The poll also found that:

- The United States has one of the highest levels of public support for the traditional one-breadwinner family. Sixty-two percent of American said the ideal family would have one parent at home full-time. Only Hungarians expressed stonger support, with 66 percent favoring it over a two-worker family.

- Former Soviet Bloc nations stand out as the only places surveyed where the public believes the position of women compared to men has deteriorated in the past five years. Pollsters speculated that was because industry layoffs have fallen hardest on women as those countries move to a market economy.

- The French, who came up with the expression ‘Vive la difference!’ were the most likely to say they resented the expectations society placed on them because of their gender. Sixty-one percent of men said so and 70 percent of women.

- People in most countries reject the idea that the sexes are unequal in intelligence.

When asked to choose which sex was more intelligent, a majority in 18 of the 22 countries surveyed volunteered that there was no difference between men and women.

In Japan, where respondents were most likely to choose a gender as smartest, the answers were split evenly between men (42 percent) and women (41 percent).

xxxx


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email