Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Study Finds Americans Prefer Male Leaders?!


I was surprised when I picked up my local newspaper yesterday and read this headline and article:

Why Hillary lost? Study finds Americans prefer male leaders
By Kat Glass McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Men and women agree that women are more honest, intelligent, compassionate, outgoing and creative, according to a survey out Monday. But men still get a significant edge as leaders — and from both sexes.

The finding, in a survey commissioned by the Pew Research Center, may help to explain why Hillary Clinton isn't making an acceptance speech this week and why acceptance of women as leaders in politics and business has been slow.

Among men and women whom Pew surveyed, a large majority — 69 percent — thought that men and women made equally strong leaders. But only 6 percent said women made better leaders while 21 percent said men did. Men and women held those views almost equally.

"You've got a public that on some level has a complex mix of views on this subject: admiring of women, admiring of traits that they associate with leadership, (but) not yet admiring of women in top leadership roles," said Paul Taylor, the lead author of the report and the executive vice president at the research center.

Here's the rest of the article, and here's a link to the full research report.

My first reaction was, "wow, how could so many people be so incredibly ignorant"? Then when I read the entire article and scanned the report, I calmed down. As it turns out, only 27% (21% for men, 6% for woman) actually believe gender should have anything to do with who would make a better leader. The majority (69%) of respondents answered the way I would have: it doesn't make a damn bit of difference.

So the headline should have said:

Most Americans Think that Men and Woman Make Equally Strong Leaders.

Also interesting is that when it comes to honesty, intelligence and a handful of other character traits they value highly in leaders, the public actually rates women superior to men.

But then again, who really cares what people think, especially when those opinions have nothing to do with actual leadership effectiveness?

Perhaps the Pew Research Center's next project should be:

Who makes better leaders, short or tall people?

or,

Who makes better leaders, black or white people?

or better yet,

Who makes better leaders, brown eyed or blue eyed people? (watch the Frontline documentary to see the impact of labeling and discrimination)

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