Reuters Study Claims the Gender Gap Has Been "Muted" Around the World. Nope.

What Women Really Think
June 28 2013 4:12 PM

Reuters Study Claims the Gender Gap Has Been "Muted" Around the World. Nope.

Woman eating at her desk.
I am eating a salad, and Jim is also eating a salad, so gender gap solved.

Photo by ThinkStock

Thomson Reuters released a study this week surveying 1,000 professional workers from around the globe about their experiences in the workplace. The point was to compare attitudes and habits between workers in emerging markets, like Brazil and India, against those in developed ones, like the U.S. and Britain. According to Reuters, its findings are “powerful.” And the main takeaway is that “the gender gap is muted in the professional setting.” Or as The Daily Beast put it, “the gender gap is closing.”

Nope.

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Here’s Reuters’ evidence of the narrowing gap: “Men and women have nearly identical work styles and habits, both expressing strong desire to solve problems and work in an interactive and collaborative environment.” Globally, men and women are about equally as likely to claim they “want to be able to be entrepreneurial” in their work, that they “prefer an interactive/collaborative team environment,” and that “challenging work is very important” to them. They’re also about as likely to describe themselves as “good-natured,” “meticulous,” and “logical.” So there’s no gender gap in how many workers consider themselves amiable. I’m not sure that was the gap we had intended to close, but hey, they sound like nice people.

Reuters also asked these professionals whether they foresee the real gender gap—the one that shows that women occupy less powerful positions than men do and make less money at their jobs—closing anytime soon. According to Reuters, 52 percent of people in emerging markets predict that we’ll see “an equal number of male and female corporate executives” in the next 25 years. Only 36 percent of people in developed markets said the same thing. So when professionals around the world squint into the future, a healthy minority of them see gender equality on the horizon. Perhaps after their own retirement, or even death! That doesn’t mean that they’re prepared to take any steps to make that a reality.

Reuters’ only other gender insight concerns whether the professionals in its survey feel optimistic about their careers. It found that women in emerging markets are about twice as likely to express strong optimism than women in developed markets (41 percent to 22 percent). But men in developed markets were also less likely to hold that rosy view (only 33 percent of them copped to optimism, compared to 44 percent of men in emerging markets). If this has any actual implications on closing the real gender gap, Reuters doesn’t explain it.

All I’m seeing here is that people in developed markets are pessimistic about their own careers and also the careers of women in the future, while people in emerging markets are slightly less fatalistic. Also, that Reuters may not have a very good handle on what the “gender gap” is.

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 

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