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A new survey by Elle magazine and MSNBC suggests that some stereotypes about the inability of women to be leaders remain a real factor in 21st century America.

“While more than half our 60,000 respondents said a person's sex makes no difference to leadership abilities, most who expressed a preference said men are more likely to be effective leaders,” MSNBC writes. “Of male respondents, 41 percent said men are more likely to be good leaders, and 33 percent of women agreed. And three out of four women who expressed a preference said they would rather work for a man than a woman.”

The survey found that about 33 percent of men and women would rather work for a man, while about 13 percent would prefer working for a woman, with the remainder saying they had no preference.

And, MSNBC writes, “When asked who would be more likely to lead effectively, males were preferred by more than a 2-1 margin by both men and women — even though women got high marks for being problem solvers and providing more supportive work environments.”

Other interesting results:

• “71 percent of female bosses saying they have to work harder and be smarter than men to achieve the same level of success.”

• Younger workers 18 to 29 appeared to have a higher preference for female chiefs than those 30 and up, possibly pointing to a generational change.

Asked to use words to describe women, respondents chose adjectives like "moody," "bitchy," "gossipy" and "emotional." The most popular term for woman, used 347 times, was "catty."

And, MSNBC writes, “Women are stuck between a rock and a hard place, trying to be ambitious without overdoing it. According to our study, women don’t want to come off too confident and aggressive for fear of being labeled bitchy. But they also don’t want to be wishy-washy or risk being called indecisive or emotional.”
KC's View:
We can only hope that by the time our 12-year-old daughter enters the workforce, some of these continuing prejudices will have faded away. Though, as we think about it, biases like these never fade away. We all have to make a concerted effort to put them away.

To be frank, the most indecisive and wishy-washy people we’ve ever worked for have been men, and the most driven and hardest-working have generally been women. (And we’re not even counting the boss known around the office as Mrs. Content Guy.)

It’s interesting to see these survey results in the context of business and society in general. After all, there continue to be gender discrimination lawsuits against at least one major retailer in this country, as well as charges that senior executives existed in an old boy’s club atmosphere that sometimes had sales meetings in questionable venues.

But we also for the first time have a woman with a real shot at becoming a major party candidate for the US presidency and even gaining the White House. (Like her or not.) And some of the best and the brightest companies out there have a woman at the helm, and their number is likely to grow.

Which is only to say that the world isn’t perfect. But we all have a responsibility to make it more so.