Business

Tough at the top: Girls believe female leaders suffer widespread harassment, survey shows

Thomson Reuters Foundation

Girls worldwide hope to become leaders, but they expect to face sexism and harassment when they get there, a global child rights organization said in a report released Tuesday.

More than 9 in 10 girls and young women said female bosses can expect unwanted physical contact and unfair treatment, according to a survey of nearly 10,000 across 19 countries by Plan International.

“For girls and women globally, being a leader means discrimination and harassment,” said the organization’s chief executive, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen. “The findings show, if something isn’t done urgently, generations of girls will continue missing out on their ambition to become leaders and to have an influence on the areas of society, work, politics, community and family life.”

Researchers surveyed girls between the ages of 15 and 24 in countries including the United States, Canada, Denmark, India, Japan, Peru, South Sudan and Uganda for the study, and carried out several hundred in-depth interviews.

More than three-quarters of those surveyed said they aspired to become a leader, even though most thought their gender would make it harder to succeed and gain respect.

Young women with experience of taking a leadership role were even more likely to expect gender discrimination than those with no such experience, according to the report released at the Women Deliver 2019 conference in Vancouver.

“In Japan, there is still prejudice and men are more likely to become a leader and reach a higher rank,” said one girl interviewed by the charity’s researchers. “Everyone should be eligible to pursue a higher rank, but if it’s a girl who has a dream or ambition to become a leader, people start criticizing.”

The report called for action to cultivate future female leaders in homes, schools and communities and to challenge stereotypes of what it means to be a leader, which can disadvantage girls.