In 2018, the #MeToo movement gathered huge momentum, stretching into almost every aspect of our lives. The UK celebrated 100 years since women got the right to vote, and many more women voted to Remain than Leave in the Brexit referendum. In India, millions of women formed a human wall to spotlight gender equality. In France, we see a large female presence in the Gilet Jaunes protests, and across the Atlantic, women voters turned out in record numbers for the U.S. Congress midterm elections in November.
Against this backdrop it seems apt to interrogate our Edelman Trust Barometer data to see if it highlights any differences in trust between men and women.
It does appear that overall all women are less trusting than men. Women in the general population show distrust in 15 out of 27 markets, four more markets than men. Their trust scores in general are lower, notably in developed markets like the U.S., Germany, Australia, Japan, France and Canada.
Could it be that with all the focus on the imbalance of power between men and women that women feel less represented, more disenfranchised and thus less trusting? Of significance is the relative mistrust that women have in business compared to men. Globally, the gap is seven points, but it stands at 15 points in the U.S., and there are eight markets where the gap is greater than seven points.
Should we be surprised when we see a shrinking number of female CEOs and the exposure of indefensible gender pay gaps in countries like the UK, where companies have been required to publish their salaries? Even the iconic institution of the BBC was found lacking. Women are not seeing women in charge in business or as highly valued as men. Does this undermine their faith?
“Engagement” is a key factor in trust for women. As women are more engaged with news and information, their trust gap with men closes. The good news is that women in the informed public are becoming more engaged, with a 23-point spike in engagement from last year.
But overall, the skepticism on behalf of women begs the question: What do we do? Should we talk more directly and more often to women? Should we dial up talking about our purpose, our intentions and our integrity when we talk to women as our employees or our customers?
And as we see trust becoming a more local issue, the way business treats women in its local community may well become something we need to pay attention to.
At a time when the debate over women’s place in our society is center stage and unlikely to go away soon, it is worth us all giving these findings careful thought.
Carol Potter is president and CEO of Edelman Europe & CIS.