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Empowering Women in Business

Feminists Are the Majority

Public opinion polls consistently reveal majority support for feminists and/or the women's movement, and feminist issues. Yet frequently feminists are advised not to call themselves feminists and to "soft-pedal" these issue positions. We believe this is an error and hurts feminists seeking positions of power and influence.

Let's look at the facts. In 1989, a Time magazine poll found that 81% of women think the women's movement is still improving the lives of women.

In a 1986 Newsweek Gallup poll, 56% of all women said they considered themselves feminists while only 4% consider themselves anti-feminists. A 1987 Times-Mirror study conducted by the Gallup Organization found 51% of both women and men identify themselves as feminists and 29% identified themselves as strongly so.

Yet in the same poll only 31% of the women and men identified themselves as Republicans, 44% as Democrats, 34% as liberals, and 45% as conservatives. So more people identify themselves as feminists and / or women's rights supporters than as Republican, Democrat, liberal, or conservative.

From 1970 to the 1980's, support for the women's movement's efforts has gone from a bare plurality to a solid majority. The Virginia Slims American Women Poll, conducted by Louis Harris Associates and the Roper Organization, reveals support for efforts to strengthen and change women's status in society went from 42% in 1970 to a strong 64% in 1980.

Women business executives overwhelmingly support feminist positions. According to a 1984 Wall Street Journal/Gallup poll of executive women, 72% supported passage of the ERA. In a 1982 Kom/Ferry International survey, 80% of women senior executives favored passage of the ERA. In both polls, women executives registers higher support levels than among American women at the time.

On the issue of abortion, executive women are significantly more likely than women generally to favor a woman's right to abortion for any reason (59% compared to 22% of all American women in the Wall Street Journal/Gallup survey; 90% in the Korn/Ferry International survey.)

The Wall Street Journal Gallup poll found that "nearly half of female executives (48%)" are feminist (favor ERA and legal abortion). Moreover, younger, better educated women executives were even more likely than older, less educated women to be feminists. Two-thirds (67%) of the young achievers are feminists, compared with only 25% of senior, non-top women and 26% of late starters.

Sixty-three percent of the women executives in the Korn/Ferry survey believe that "barriers to women have not fallen at the senior management level," and 70% believe that "women do not receive equal pay for comparable jobs." In the Wall Street Journal/ Gallup poll, more than four out of five women executives say "there are disadvantages to being female in the business world." According to the 1986 Gallup poll, the proportion of professional women who believe they have fewer professional opportunities available to them as those available to men outnumber by a 3-to-1 margin those who believe they have more opportunities available.

In poll after poll, support for women's rights positions among executive women is strong. Given all this data, it makes sense to recognize where the real majority of this country stands.