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Acting on the evidence

We created the Reykjavik Index for Leadership in 2018 to shed light onto society’s perceptions of and prejudices towards women in leadership, based on representative research across adults of working age. What we found was powerful: across the G7 nations, society viewed women as less suitable than men for positions of leadership. This was the case in every nation, and in every economic sector (except for childcare and the fashion/beauty industry) that we researched. We also found that men carried a higher degree of prejudice towards female leaders than women did, again in every nation researched.


In November 2019 we published the second study, spanning twenty-two sectors in eleven countries: Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK, and the USA. The research in its second year showed notable changes and updates from its first. A decline was seen in the Reykjavik Index score for the UK, specifically linked to a shift in male attitudes which had deteriorated. There was a similar situation in the USA.  As for the countries studied for the first time in 2019 – Brazil, China, India, and Russia – they demonstrated some marked differences amongst them in attitudes towards women in leadership. India, with an Index of 67, and Brazil, with an Index of 66, score relatively highly and are broadly in line with lower-scoring G7 countries – Italy, Germany, and Japan. Russia (53) and China (48) have the lowest Reykjavik Index scores amongst the countries studied.


As part of the wider study behind the Reykjavik Index, we also explore how women are viewed specifically as CEOs and as Heads of State. On average across the eleven countries researched in 2019, only 41% of people are very comfortable with a woman as the head of government in their country, and 40% are very comfortable with a woman as CEO of major national companies. Beyond these averages, the differences between men and women endure: women remain more likely to think that both men and women are equally suitable to lead (44% of women as compared to 36% of men who feel the same. 46% of women feel very comfortable with the idea of a woman as head of government, as compared to 37% of men researched.)


What all this evidence reveals is that there is a long way to go before being a woman or being a man has no bearing on perceptions of how suitable someone is to lead in the workplace. It also reveals in the relatively high scores of some industries, such as Natural Sciences and Finance, that efforts to encourage more women in ‘STEM’ careers through education may be bearing fruit. Having women in prominent leadership roles in these industries, such as Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, may contribute to shifting social norms about leaders in these industries and encourage more women to follow in their footsteps.


The power of this evidence can only be truly harnessed when combined with a global community of purpose to drive for equality. Further, true change can only be achieved with the efforts of the business community, policymakers and civil society combined to create sustainable pathways for women and men to fulfill their potential as leaders.

Dr. Michelle Harrison, Global CEO, Public Division Kantar

For more information on the Index 2019 please visit here