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Most expect more female leaders in the next decade

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America has come a long way since 1971, when The Harris Poll found that equal parts of the American public favored and opposed efforts to strengthen and change women's status in society (42% favor and 41% oppose).

Today, majorities of Americans say they would be equally likely to trust either a man or a woman in various leadership roles, 3 in 4 agree that the U.S. has come a long way toward reaching gender equality, and nearly 9 in 10 acknowledge that, compared to previous generations, men today are willing to take on more responsibilities at home (86%).

We've come a long way indeed, but we're not there yet – women still face barriers to leadership opportunities and lack of recognition in the workplace, but more than 8 in 10 adults are hopeful that gender equality will be achieved in their lifetime (84%), including nearly half (47%) who strongly agree.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,097 U.S. adults surveyed online between June 1 and 3, 2016. Complete results of this study can be found here.

Bright outlook for women's future, but work remains to be done

Most U.S. adults are optimistic about what the future will hold for American women:

  • About 9 in 10 believe the next decade will see more female leaders (91%); and,
  • Majorities think the next generation of American women will have more leadership opportunities (69%), higher income potential (65%), and greater freedom to marry (57%).

At the same time, however, only about half are as confident about increased access to education (53%) and health care (50%), and more protection against violence (51%).

In fact, more than 9 in 10 Americans (93%) agree – including nearly 2 in 3 (65%) who strongly agree – that we must make faster progress in preventing violence against women.

It takes a village: responsibility for change lies with all, but mostly women

Large majorities of Americans agree that the responsibility for change lies with all facets of society:

  • The media play a crucial role in shaping gender roles and norms (87%);
  • It's important that families teach their children that girls can do anything that boys can do (89%); and,
  • Businesses, non-profits, schools, and government need to work together with families to promote gender equality (84%).

Employers can also help level the corporate playing field by taking certain steps – such as flexibility and transparency – to promote equal leadership opportunities for men and women in the workplace.

But ultimately, the bulk of the burden to inspire change lies with women themselves – while the vast majority of adults feel everyone should have at least some responsibility for improving American women's lives, nearly 2 in 3 place the onus primarily on women:


At Least A Little

Responsibility (NET)

A Great Deal of


Women 99% 65%
Men 96% 43%
Communities 95% 34%
Schools 94% 39%
Businesses/Corporations 94% 36%
Media 89% 36%
Government 87% 32%

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit our website,


This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between June 1 and June 3, 2016among 2,097 adults. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.