Posted by: rjsipe | February 12, 2015

Equal, but Not Equal

I came across this article in the Washington Post, which sites the study from the PEW Center, and believe it brings up some good concepts and issues. In class we often discuss how women are seen as unequal still, and are largely under-represented in high leadership positions.  We have discussed issues such surrounding this such as seeing women as incompetent or too motivated and aggressive, the bitch or the ditz. In addition we have looked at how women are pulled from the public sphere due to work home balance. We have also read research that suggests women are seen as less competent due to their collaborative leadership style, which is seen as weaker. Then there is also the Great Women Theory in which it described women as more communal, collaborative, honest, ect., in which we took a hatchet to and dismembered, leaning towards calling it just “good leadership.” These two pieces, specifically the PEW study interacts with all of these ideas on some level.

To me in the study two major things stand out: one, women are seen as equal to or better to me in largely positive attributes, and second, that despite this seen equality or superiority women are still so under-represented. In many ways the research in this study suggests that the American public no longer sees the sex differences that past research has shown, one area in particular is the idea that collaborative leaders are less competent. The study suggests that women are not only equally as competent to men, but also could be more competent. Along with these equal or superior qualities it also raises the issue about the Great Woman Theory, suggesting that women might potentially have traits that they are inherently better at than men, or since a majority of those polled answered there were no differences the theory is flawed; either way it calls for a reconsideration of the theory.

The study also brings up issues such as women’s personal and family life and when or if they should have kids. It also brings up issue of a double standard for women and men, with women having to work harder and do more to prove their merit. All these lead to women still being under-represented in the higher levels of business and in politics. Though over the past twenty years women have progressed in these fields, but not as much as they should have according to the level of equality that has occurred in the eyes of the public. Why can we not seem to cross these hurdles and be equal in representation? The article suggests that politics are a large contributor to this, how can we get past politics to have true representation? And finally, are there any strategies we can use to further and quicken the progress that has already been made?


  1. Honestly, I do not think it is any way we can quicken the process of the progress we’ve made with women in leadership. The oppression of women has gone back many years, therefore it is going to take a while for us to break the societal norm of women being inferior. Based on this research’s findings that women are now being found to be equally as competent as men is a HUGE progress. Based off of the literature we’ve read in class, it has indicated that women in the past, have been viewed as being less competent as men.This newer finding is alone significant progress in the right direction.

    In terms of encouraging this upward momentum, I agree that politics need to be disengaged from this issue. The only way we are going to be able to remove politics from the picture is if we continue to educate society and one another about the value of women. Additionally, it is extremely important that we teach the younger generations the value of women because they are the ones that are going to be able to change the future.

  2. I agree with the point that this article is making in the sense that the newer generations, such as ours, don’t really see this gender difference the way that our parent’s generation may have. While this is true, I think that the barriers to women are still there. I think that we have become more socialized to accept these small barriers to women. I think that this largely has to do with the vast media at our fingertips. When concerning politics or women in public eye, I think that the media is largely to blame for our societies view of men and women. Women are asked questions such as, “how is your family?”or “how do you manage your family with such a demanding work life?” while the men are asked, “how will you better lead this organization?” I think that the only plausible strategies would be to make the media ask men and women the same questions when they have the same positions. This would show the newer generations that both men and women are able to take on the same jobs and that men and women both worry and are concerned with having a family and a career. If the media is always singling women out, then there is no way for there to be true equality. This largely remind me of the TED talk from class when the women stated, “Don’t take yourself out of the game before you’re out.” By singling out women we may scare girls into thinking that they cannot have both family and a work life and that is not fair.

  3. This is a great article and I love the thought provoking questions that you have. My response to this is a bit negative I must say. Which is strange for me. I consider myself a feminist and very gung-ho for equal rights but tonight I am feeling a little different. Tonight I do not feel that there is any major changes that we can makes to even out the playing field. Politics may have something to do with this yes but I believe that a part of it truly is just human nature. From the beginning of our development as a species we have conformed to gender norms and societal expectations. Although there are some that stray from the normal path most of them show men being dominant and women being submissive. Maybe this is just part of who we are biologically. What women are doing currently is the best thing we can do at this point. Prove our capabilities and obtain positions that are not stereotypical of us to preform in. There is no radical revolution that could take place to change years of societal norms. We can discuss and educate as much as we want but in the end what women are doing now in the work place is a huge success and is leading the slow societal transformation.

  4. I thought this study was a really great find and it had a lot of interesting statistics that I hadn’t really thought about before. The part about the difference in confidence in women in business versus in politics was particularly interesting to me. I think that women are doubted in their ability to even out the playing field in business because typically the higher levels in business hierarchy are occupied by men. These men are the ones who choose their employees and successors, or at least play a major part in it. However, I think women are seen to have a better chance in obtaining high level political positions because they’re normally voted for by the general population of an area, which is made up of all different groups of people. I think that gives women a better chance in getting to higher levels, not because they’re better or worse in either field, but because their future depends on the average opinion of a large group of different people, rather than on the opinion of one man. I still think the process of gaining equal representation in all hierarchical levels in certain fields will be very slow, but we have undoubtedly made progress in that direction.

  5. As we have read and discussed, the representation has not become equal because women often feel pressure to leave their occupations in order to start a family and be a housewife. I believe implementing programs in businesses for alternate family plans or daycare services through companies would be an adequate solution to this problem. I believe projects like The White House Project we read about in Wilson’s book are also encouraging projects that empower women to dream bigger and be more ambitious with their career plans. Projects like these should begin at a young age, where we encourage and inspire young women that they can become prominent leaders in the world. I think Wilson’s suggestion to create encouragement groups, mentor/mentee relationships, and women making men their allies are all key components to breaking down women’s under-representation.

  6. I thought that the statistics in this article were really very interesting. I think that these numbers and opinions of female leaders better represent an era of gender equality that we are slowly inching our way into. I also completely agree with the point raised about compromise. I have always found myself talking out my problems to try to find a solution rather than being stubborn and just waiting until everyone jumped on board with what I was saying. The trend of increased female leadership in all sectors of the workplace is moving its way up but I think that some women are getting stuck in the “middle-manager” roles like we discussed in class. I think at this point, more men need to start supporting female leadership because they make up half of the population and there cannot be equal gender representation in politics or the workplace in general without having everyone united under the same front.

  7. It’s like the one of the reading we did in class said that we aren’t afraid of the change but we are afraid of losing power. Since many of these politicians are all about power they don’t want to give it up, so that there is an equality in are representation. I am hopeful that one day there will be equality but it will be at a very slow pace and I don’t believe that there is anyway to really increase the process rate. Once there is an equality with our politics, hopefully it will trickle it way through the business world and into all different aspects of life, and there will be a sort of equality everywhere.

  8. I really appreciate this article being shown as it exemplifies the confusion of whether women are not as competent or actually overly competent to men, and why is there an actual underrepresentation of women in the political and corporate world. Overall, those reasonings why women aren’t being supported in top executive and political roles is highly frustrating as the highest two reasons shown are because of outside the power of those women. Why is it that women are viewed as equally competent on one hand, but on the other outside forces are the reasons holding women back? Our generation, I hope, will continue growing with an open mind and both genders support the growth of equality. I think that both genders are responsible for the stigma of women not growing from middle level managers and successfully succeeding in moving beyond the average, managerial job. I unfortunately don’t think the time for this equality to happen will be sped up, but the process of a continuous change will have to consistently take place to bring one day, a new norm.

  9. I completely agree that we, as women, need more representation in the political sphere. I find it absurd that a country founded on no taxation without representation is willing to do this very thing to women. It does not make any sense to not have an equal representation of men and women as they are in the population. If the population is 51% women then Congress needs to be 51% women. Women have an equal right to be there and could offer a fresh new perspective on old issues. If we had more women in politics then when the country comes across one, they won’t be so quick to label her a bitch or a ditz. Women in politics should be the norm so that one woman doesn’t have to represent all women but all women should be equally represented. I believe the way to accomplish more women in government is to stress to a young generation the importance of it, to increase the number of leadership programs where young girl learn to be leaders, and to encourage them to pursue their full potential.

  10. I have loved reading all of these comments! I can’t help but agree with most that has been stated already. While there aren’t as many women in politics, I would hate to force anyone to do something they don’t want to do, so we really need to delve into the reason as to why there aren’t more women in politics and go from there. And perhaps that is the societal standards of leadership or maybe it’s just that women don’t like politics as much as men – there are a huge variety of options.

    I don’t know if speeding up the process is possible, we can keep encouraging women and their leadership, but society is going to progress at the rate that it does (which is feels like no one has control over), but ultimately it’s up to the younger generations (and always will be) to push society into the next phase.

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