Tough at the top: girls believe female leaders suffer widespread harassment

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 3 June 2019 23:01 GMT

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss Brexit, at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

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More than nine in 10 girls and young women said female bosses could expect unwanted physical contact and to be treated unfairly

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, June 4 (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 organisation said in a report released on Tuesday.

More than nine in 10 girls and young women said female bosses could expect unwanted physical contact and to be treated unfairly, 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 organisation'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 aged from 15 to 24 in countries including the United States, Canada, Denmark, India, Japan, Peru, South Sudan, and Uganda for the study, and also 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 for them to succeed and gain respect.

Young women who had experience of taking a leadership role were even more likely to expect gender discrimination than those who have no experience of leading, 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 higher rank," said one girl interviewed by the charity's researchers.

"Everyone should be eligible to pursue higher rank, but if it's a girl who has a dream or ambition to become a leader, people start criticising."

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 that can disadvantage girls. (Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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