We have come a long way from worrying about gender gap to trust gap. Frankly, I am not surprised. With the rise of women leaders, the questions over their leadership will be asked. People would have opinions, perceptions, and assessment. It’s never easy for women but the trust gap – declining trust in women leaders – is serious and needn’t be dismissed as mere gender discrimination because it is not. Sure, some bits of this could be driven by people’s unfair expectations from women leaders. Or their perceptions about their leadership. May be, some of them have been targeted with false propaganda. All said and done, this still matters.
Why? It’s tied to everything we want the human progress to look like – economies, businesses and firms, hoseholds, societies…
What explains the trust gap? Most experts argue:
- institutional misogyny and gender bias has been supercharged by both the recent political landscape and the pandemic, made gender bias more tolerable as more women left paid work to manage children and home.
- In times of uncertainty, people choose safe options that they have grown up seeing, and in this case, men as leaders instead of women.
- What played out in the US over abortion rights may have undermined women’s position. If they can’t own their bodies, they can’t own anything?!
- Misogynistic and violent online content against women might be fuelling this too.
- Cultural backlash: With more women in positions of power, many see the status quo threatened and place of men challenged.
- Failure of a clutch of women leaders might have been used to villify all women. (Hint: Liz Truss, Elizabeth Holmes, Marissa Mayer)
- The glass cliff: Picking women to manage volatile or struggling businesses works against them as the odds to succeed are greater.
I worry the solution isn’t going to come overnight. I believe much of what’s happening is rooted deeply in culture and any change in culture is neither linear not quick. It takes centuries, decades, years. So what can we do?
Women have to demand better, feel less guilty, follow more of what they want. This takes years of un-conditioning ourselves against what we have seen around us, in generations that came before us, and learn to be the best we can be, for us. This also means, solidarity. Sincere solidarity. Women leaders hiring more women, for one. Active mentoring. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a global village to raise self sustaining, world altering women. This society is built on jealously. We have to collecivtely break the chain that holds us back and truly enable our peers in all walks of life, uplift all women and treat this as a mission above our individual ambitions. This is how, even in a callous, tough world, there will be space for women to thrive, fail, thrive, just like men.