The Social Sector's Glass Ceiling: Why Women In Leadership Jobs Matter

Tom Watson

By Tom Watson

Two weeks ago, the Pew Research Center released the results of a national survey on women and leadership – results that still show major challenges in public life and the corporate C-suite for women in the U.S.

We all know the big scores: 44-0 for the U.S. Presidency and the noted dearth (just 4.6% of the S&P 500) of women in the CEO role of major companies. There are 104 female member of the U.S. Congress – the most ever – but it’s somehow seen as a victory that a shade over 19 percent of elected representatives in our national legislature are now women.

The Pew study showed that attitudes are slowly changing – but that hurdles to parity (and fairness) still exist. According to the survey, women are far more likely than men to see gender discrimination in today’s society, and that “women and men are seen as equally good business leaders, but gender stereotypes persist.”

Reports Pew: “…the public does not see major differences between men and women on key business leadership qualities. Where they do see gaps, women have a clear advantage over men on honesty and ethics, providing fair pay and benefits, and offering mentorship to young employees. Men have an edge when it comes to being willing to take risks and negotiating profitable deals.”

That got me thinking about my own sector: nonprofits, philanthropists, social ventures. Where I go to work every day, the gender gaps tends to run in the opposite direction – and yet even here, the glass ceiling remains stubborn.

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