Women continue to make strides in politics and in the workplace, but the public isn't sure they're ready to challenge the male domination of the corporate boardrooms, according to a new survey.
About 53 percent of those polled by the Pew Research Center said they believe that men will continue to hold more executive positions in businesses than women, and 44 percent said it was only a matter of time before women held as many top posts as men.
Though a majority of those polled said there was no difference between men and women when it came to their abilities as business leaders, women were much more likely than men to say double standards prevented them from winning top corporate jobs, according to the survey released Wednesday.
"It's not that the public thinks women aren't qualified," said Kim Parker, Pew's director of social trends research. "The public is really pointing to deeper societal barriers."
When asked why there aren't more women in executive positions, for instance, 52 percent of women polled said they were held to higher standards than men. Only 33 percent of men held the same view.
The report also found a double-digit gender gap over whether women face discrimination in society today: 65 percent of women but only 48 percent of men said women face a lot or some discrimination.
Women account for just 4.6 percent of the chief executives and 19.6 percent of the board members of companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index, according to a census of women in business released Tuesday by the nonprofit research group Catalyst.
"Because there have been so many men in visible leadership roles the idea of what leadership looks like tends to be stereotypically male," said Deborah Gillis, Catalyst's chief executive. "We have to break that down."
Although 80 percent of Americans said men and women make equally good business leaders, some gender stereotypes persisted — 54 percent of respondents said a man would do a better job of running a sports team while 33 percent said there would be no difference and 8 percent said a woman would be better.
Pew's survey found that about 1 in 5 respondents said women's family responsibilities were a major reason more females weren't in top positions.
When asked what men and women bring to business leadership, 31 percent said women were better at being honest and ethical and 64 percent said there was no difference.
Meanwhile, 34 percent said men were better at taking risks and 5 percent said women were better. The majority, 58 percent, said there was no difference.
Women in politics fared better than in business. A large majority of respondents, 73 percent, said a woman would be elected president of the United States in their lifetime.