Survey: Women Leaders Smarter, More Honest

In a finding that will be bittersweet for Hillary Clinton supporters, a new Pew survey finds that when it comes to honesty, intelligence and a handful of other key traits valued in leaders, the public rates women as superior to men.

Still, a mere 6 percent say that, overall, women make better political leaders than men. The vast majority of respondents, 69 percent, ranked men and women as equally good leaders. That's according to a nationwide Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends survey of 2,250 American adults conducted from June 16 to July 16, 2008. 

In an era apparently reaping the benefits of Title IX (a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions), and exulted as one in which women can nearly as easily climb to once male-only rungs of corporate and academic ladders, relatively few women actually have journeyed to the highest levels of political or corporate leadership, according to Pew analysts. (Women are just 2 percent of the CEOs of the nation's Fortune 500 companies.)

Survey respondents cited gender discrimination, resistance to change, and a self-serving "old boys club" as reasons for the relative scarcity of women at the top.

"What the public does not say is that women inherently lack what it takes to be leaders," Pew analysts stated. "To the contrary, on seven of eight leadership traits measured in this survey, the public rates women either better than or equal to men."

For example, the most important leadership trait according to the respondents is honesty. And half of all adults surveyed said women are more honest than men, while just one-in-five indicated men are more honest.

Women also ranked higher than men on leadership qualities such as decisiveness, compassion, outgoing nature and creativeness.

On the policy front, more than 50 percent of respondents said women are better than men at dealing with social issues such as health care and education, while 42 percent said men have an edge over women in the way they deal with crime and public safety. More than 50 percent said men are better than women at dealing with defense and national security issues.