More than half of American men are uncomfortable with the idea of a female political leader

Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert

This election cycle, six women threw their hat in the ring for president, but is their gender holding them back? Would Americans feel comfortable with a woman leading the free world? Based on the last election, the answer is a swift no. And a new study backs this up. The study found that only 49% of American men would feel very comfortable with a woman serving as the head of the government. By comparison, 59% of women said they would feel comfortable with a woman in charge.

The Reykjavik Index for Leadership, which measures attitude towards women leaders, evaluated the attitudes of those living in the G7 countries as well as Brazil, China, India, and Russia. 22,000 adults in those 11 countries were surveyed on their attitudes about female leadership in 22 different sectors, including government, fashion, technology, media, banking and finance, education, and childcare.

Only two countries, Canada and the U.K., had a majority of respondents say they would be more comfortable with a female head of state. Germany (which currently has a female Chancellor), Japan, and Russia were the countries least comfortable with a female head of state.

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Interestingly, both men and woman are more at ease with female leaders in the private sector. More American women and men were more comfortable with having a woman run a company. 56% of men and 66% of women said they were comfortable with a female CEO.

Americans also scored the highest out of all 11 countries surveyed when it comes to feeling comfortable about the idea of a female leader in media and entertainment, banking and finance, and natural sciences.

American respondents were the most comfortable with having a woman in charge when it comes to childcare, and the least comfortable with a female leader in gaming, automotive manufacturers, and defense and policing. It's slightly ironic, since politicians can behave like children.

All of the countries tended to feel comfortable with women leaders in more traditionally "feminine" realms, such as childcare, education, fashion, beauty, healthcare. Conversely, they felt more comfortable with male leaders in traditionally "masculine" fields, such as the auto industry, law enforcement, gaming, and aerospace and engineering. The bias that men and women are suited for better professions was upheld.

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The findings don't mean that it's impossible to have a female POTUS. "Women in all walks of life have a harder job on the journey to leadership than men," Michelle Harrison, who worked on the study, told the Huffington Post. "I don't think it's telling us anything specific about a particular woman. Leaders always break through."

All in all, the survey seems to reinforce the fact that women have a lot of work to do in order to be taken seriously in non-traditionally female fields. However, we have the power to change the statistics.


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