Women remain underrepresented in leadership and decision-making roles across both public and private sectors. Factors that pose barriers to women include unjust social norms and attitudes, discriminatory laws and practices, and an inequitable distribution of resources (e.g., education and healthcare). The Beijing Platform for Action acknowledges that women’s full and equal participation in leadership is necessary to face the challenges of the 21st century. Similarly, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda calls for “women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life.”

Though there has been progress globally in the representation of women leaders—for example, the proportion of women in parliaments rose from 13.2% in 2000 to 34.4% in 2017 (Progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, 2018)—we are far from gender parity. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by issues such as climate change, poverty, and access to education, yet are greatly underrepresented in decision-making in areas of sustainable development. It is essential to reach gender parity in the representation of leaders and decision-makers in order to ensure full and equitable protection for women, create more effective solutions to global challenges, and take meaningful steps toward sustainability.

This panel addresses the above issues by focusing on the role of policies and advocacy in empowering women as leaders and decision-makers. Using evidence from psychological science, speakers discuss barriers that hold women back from full and equal participation in leadership and provide examples of best practices to decrease the global gender gap in representation.

SPSSI 2o17 Conference | Albuquerque, NM | June 2017

Abstract: Gender stereotypes are descriptive and prescriptive when applied both to ordinary people and to public figures. We examined how gendered concepts relate to people’s representation of the ideal president and their attitudes toward Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Different groups of participants rated the “ideal” president, the average man or woman, Clinton, or Trump, on masculine and feminine traits from the BSRI and PAQ and completed the Modern Sexism scale. The ideal president was more masculine than feminine, and greater sexism was correlated with lower preference for feminine traits in the ideal.  Both Clinton and Trump were rated as masculine as the ideal president.  Clinton was rated as less feminine than the ideal president and the average woman, while Trump was rated as more masculine than the average man. Modern Sexism correlated with lower femininity ratings and lower favorability for Clinton, and with higher favorability for Trump.  The ideal president is masculine, but an actual female candidate who is not feminine “enough” is penalized, especially by individuals who display more Modern Sexism.  Our data show the underlying attitudes that account for people's attitudes toward political candidates and reveal the explanatory benefits of using psychological questions and scales over most poll questions.


Roosevelt Public Policy Institute at Hunter College | New York, NY | March 2017

“Contrary to the predictions of pollsters and pundits, Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election. Why did she lose? Immediate analyses focused on economic anxiety and dissatisfaction over Clinton's use of a personal email server. Although those issues were undoubtedly important, this two-part event focuses on an additional factor that has received too little attention: sexism.”