In The #MeToo Era, Men & Women Say They Want More Female Leaders

Photographed by Eva K Salvi.

If the tone of many workplaces was more subdued last year than usual heading into the holiday season, that might be because the news was rife with stories of female (and sometimes male) ambivalence about socio-professional gatherings amid #MeToo.

Some companies eliminated parties completely, while others set limits on alcohol consumption. Looking farther down the line, the Times reported that other men worried about mentoring women due to high-profile firings for misconduct, and adhering to "the Pence rule" of not being alone with women who aren't his wife.

Such "fixes" seem dramatic, but there is some indication that they aren't universal.

A new poll of more than 2,000 U.S. adults from Berlin Cameron, The Female Quotient, and Harris Poll (conducted in December 2017) shows that men and women aren't only eager to work with women — they also hope to be led by more women in the future.

Half (50%) say they would "prefer to work at a female-led company over a male-led company" (broken down to 55% of women and 46% of men). And 81% of women as well as 59% of men said "when they see women in leadership positions, they're encouraged to believe that they can also have a leadership position."

Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient told Refinery29, "The perception is when you have female-led companies, they're more purpose driven; and purpose driven companies leads to higher retention of the workforce." The findings are based on perceptions rather than realities, she granted, but it is one that near or full majorities of men and women aspire to:

● 64% of women and 47% of men say female-owned companies are more purpose-driven

● 75% of total respondents said working in a female-owned company means female employees are more likely to get equal pay for equal work as their male counterparts

● 81% of women and 75% of men believe female-owned companies are more likely to include benefits like access to childcare

Issues such as paid leave and childcare often fall on women's shoulders, but Harris Poll CEO John Gerzema says that men are increasingly looking for opportunities to take on their share of those responsibilities, too — work-willing.

"What we think is happening in these responses is that there has been so much [of a] cultural headwind inside these companies that has obviously harmed women, but to some extent — though not equally — men are saying those are problems too, whether it's lack of access to childcare for their families or harassment," he explains.

"So, what we talk about when we discuss a 'modern' workplace is really cleaning up these cultures and allowing for tangible returns, which means happier employees, more effective leaders, and better-run companies."

It is important to remember, of course, that women are not inherently progressive, forward-thinking leaders just because they are women. As noted in allegations at Thinx (which appointed a new CEO) to Vice Media (which has fired several employees), women can also fail to uphold standards of what might be considered a "feminist" company, much less a comfortable one on the most basic level.

Though, per the Harris Poll survey results, an overwhelming percentage of people want to see a change in ratio at the top. The report concludes: "Ninety-two percent of adults say changes need to be made to eliminate sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. The most important changes falling on HR, gender norms, harassment training and taking a stance."

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