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Female leaders aren’t trusted, says ANU study

According to research by the Australian National University (ANU), female leaders aren’t trusted by their colleagues.

user iconJack Campbell 04 November 2022 Big Law
Female leaders aren’t trusted, says ANU study
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Editors note: This story was originally published on Lawyers Weekly’s sister brand, HR Leader. 

Lead research author Dr Eun Young Song commented on the negative impact this can have: “It’s great to help women move up the ladder, but this study shows even when they do succeed, women aren’t likely to be trusted by the people around them.

“We found [that] despite the fact these women are often in supervisory roles, and are well connected, their high status doesn’t benefit them.”


Dr Song noted that this issue isn’t seen as often when the woman is in a junior position. For men, however, it is the opposite. The research found that people tend to trust men in senior positions more than men in junior positions.

Dr Song said: “This could actually discourage women from taking up high-status positions in the first place.”

Dr Song commented on how this affects relationships in networking: “Trust among members of a professional network makes the network effective. It makes sharing information easier, which in turn helps with achieving common goals.

“The importance of networks in business is much talked about, but we need to consider how widely held beliefs about women’s competence and social status might impact those networks.”

The research was conducted over two studies of employees working on a major underground project in London in 2014 and 2015. Dr Song noted that this gender divide could hinder productivity and said data and education are what will turn the tide on distrust.

“Efforts to achieve gender equality should be paired with a society-wide push to break down these gender-status beliefs,” said Dr Song.

“Without this, promoting more women to more senior positions won’t solve the problem — and may even exacerbate it. We need to move beyond simply telling individual women to improve their communication skills.”

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