The Fix podcast with Michelle King and Kelly Thomson

From a young age, we are taught what the appropriate behaviour is for boys and girls. Through repeated exposure over the years we come to know how men and women are meant to behave. These beliefs are then used to make judgments about women at work. When women succeed in traditionally male-dominated roles, they defy the expectations society has for women and they are punished for it.

On today’s episode we are going to unpack how inequality at work also creates backlash when it comes to authority. Joining us on the show is Mary Ann Sieghart who will talk about her new book The Authority Gap and how to address and counteract systemic sexism in ways that benefit us all.

Continuing gender bias in leadership roles undermines us all

My article in Perspective magazine

Imagine this. Theresa May was never toppled, and Boris Johnson is still making trouble on the backbenches. May has finally extricated Britain from the EU but, more importantly for these purposes, she is prime minister in the time of Covid. Do you think she would have missed the first five Cobra meetings at the start of the pandemic? Can you envisage her blithely shaking hands with coronavirus patients and then boasting about it? Would she have delayed putting India on the red list because she wanted to sign a trade deal?

Would the UK have ended up with one of the highest death rates in Europe?

I very much doubt it, and I’m not even a fan of hers. I don’t think she was a good prime minister. But she was at least diligent, conscientious, cautious and thoughtful, none of which traits belong to the current incumbent, but all of which have been exemplified by the best leaders in this pandemic. Think of Jacinda Ardern or Angela Merkel, and compare their record with Johnson, Trump, Bolsonaro, Putin, Modi and Erdoğan.

Captivating account of how sexism is still rife

Review in The Irish Independent by Frieda Klotz

Back in 2003, Mary McAleese had a meeting with Pope John Paul II as part of an official visit to the Vatican.

They were about to be introduced when the Pope stretched out his hand to her husband Martin, asking: “Would you not prefer to be President of Ireland rather than married to the President of Ireland?” McAleese reached out and shook the Pope’s hand as it hovered in the air. “I am the President of Ireland… elected by the people of Ireland, whether you like it or whether you don’t.”

This is one of dozens of revealing tales to emerge from Mary Ann Sieghart’s The Authority Gap, which probes why women are taken less seriously than men. The book is enormously authoritative, knitting together academic studies with interviews of leading public figures.

Difficult Women podcast with Rachel Johnson

This week’s guest is author, journalist, radio presenter and former assistant editor of The Times – Mary Ann Sieghart. In this new LBC podcast, Rachel Johnson’s Difficult Women, Rachel speaks with women who had to be a pain in the backside to get where they are today. Women who take the word difficult as a compliment not an insult. And women who had to fight, resist, insist, or otherwise be badly behaved in order to get things done.

Speak Up: BBC Radio 4 documentary

Women may be caricatured as babbling chatterboxes, but in public, women speak a lot less. Be it in conferences or committee meetings, television or parliamentary debates, women do not get a proportionate amount of air space as men. Mary Ann takes us on a global journey to find out why women aren’t speaking up and if they are being disproportionally side-lined, excluded from the world’s debates.

She explores the role history and social conditioning plays: the ancient Babylonians thought if a woman spoke in public, she should have her teeth smashed with a burnt brick; in classrooms today boys get far more attention, teachers accepting their calling out of answers, while punishing girls for the same behaviour.

She hears that when women do speak, they are often spoken over regardless of their status. In the Australian High Court, women judges and even the female presiding judge were regularly interrupted by male advocates. And women aren’t heard in the same way as men; many struggle to see that a woman might be the expert in the room.

Monocle Reads Meet the Writers podcast

Interview with Georgina Godwin

By now we are all aware of the pay gap between genders but what about the gaps that are harder to quantify? On this week’s ‘Monocle Reads’ Georgina Godwin speaks to journalist and academic Mary Ann Sieghart about her latest book ‘The Authority Gap’, which examines the disparity between men and women – one that can take different shapes but clearly permeates the lives of many women.

Spectator Podcast interview with Sam Leith

“My guest in this week’s books podcast is Mary Ann Sieghart, whose new book The Authority Gap accumulates data to show that so-called ‘mansplaining’ isn’t a minor irritation but the manifestation of something that goes all the way through society: women are taken less seriously than men, even by other women. She says it’s not just ‘wokery’ to point it out, and she makes the case for how she thinks it came to be, what we can do to change it, and why we should take the trouble.”

A woman’s favourite position?

By Mark Mason

The female founders of Witchsy, a website where artists can sell their work, noticed that whenever they corresponded with men online, they were treated badly.

So they hit on a clever solution: they invented a male co-founder called Keith Mann. ‘It was like night and day,’ said one of them, Kate Dwyer. ‘It would take me days to get a response, but Keith could not only get a response . . . but also be asked if he wanted anything else.’

It’s one of many such tales in Mary Ann Sieghart’s book about the ‘authority gap’, the fact that ‘however much we claim to believe in equality, we are still, in practice, more reluctant to accord authority to women than to men, even when they are leaders or experts’.

Today in Focus podcast

From the Guardian

From the very beginning of her career as a journalist in the 1980s, Mary Ann Sieghart found herself pushing against a set of assumptions which accorded her less authority than her male peers – and and led to her being viewed as bigheaded if she showed the same ambition and confidence as they did. When she came to write a book about how experiences such as hers still shape women’s lives, she found a huge range of empirical evidence that confirmed the existence of those prejudices. And when she asked some of the most accomplished women in the world – from Bernardine Evaristo to Hillary Clinton – she learned that they had all experienced the same “authority gap”, no matter how remarkable their CVs.

Sieghart speaks to Rachel Humphreys about why the authority gap remains a pervasive phenomenon, and what tactics women can use to try to circumvent it. We also hear excerpts from some of Sieghart’s interviews, featuring examples of the problem perpetrated by everyone from literary prize judges to restaurant staff to … the pope.

Why men are still on top

Review in the Guardian by Nesrine Malik

A thorough and sometimes enraging book shows how women are stripped of authority, why that’s bad news for everyone and what we can all do about it.

The only thing worse than not being aware enough of gender inequality is experiencing it too much. The Authority Gap, by Mary Ann Sieghart, is one of those books that takes something ubiquitous, something that perhaps many have become desensitised to, and slowly exposes its far-reaching implications.

Recommended in FT Business Books

There are already many, many books about the structural blocks to women’s advancement, but Sieghart, a British journalist and broadcaster, sensibly focuses on an under-reported angle, “the authority gap” of her title. Women, she demonstrates in her well-written chapters, always face a struggle to be taken seriously because of profound and inbuilt biases in both men and women. Right from the start, this gap means that “we still expect women to be less expert than men. Most of us . . . are still less willing to be influenced by women’s views. And we still resist the idea of women having authority over us.”

“You’re a busy little girl!”

Article in the Daily Mail

When I was small, I often smarted at the injustice of being a girl. Why was my brother taken into the cockpit of a plane, but I wasn’t? Why wasn’t I allowed to join the football game at my summer camp? What infuriated me most of all, though, was being patronised.

I hoped that, as a childhood annoyance, this would disappear as I grew up. Like pretty much all women, though, I discovered that I still had to fight harder than men to be taken seriously, and that even then, people I met for the first time would often patronise me.

How can I close the authority gap?

Article in Harper’s Bazaar

“You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver!” A chaotic Handforth Parish Council Zoom meeting turned into an internet sensation earlier this year, raising our spirits in the dankest of lockdowns as we watched shouty men being shut down at the click of a mouse by a preternaturally calm middle-aged woman.

If only it were always so easy to close the authority gap, the difference between how seriously we take women compared to men. You know when you come up with a good idea and nobody takes any notice, only for a man to repeat it ten minutes later and it’s treated like the second coming? Or when you’re in full flow, and a male colleague interrupts and starts talking over you? Or when you’re an expert in a subject, but every fact you assert is challenged or disputed by a man who clearly knows less than you?

What do we do about the authority gap?

Article for Noon website

I once sat next to a man at a dinner (remember those?) who asked me not a single question about myself. I learned all about his current job, his former career, his family, his holiday preferences, his milkman’s daughter’s dalmatian’s new puppies (well, maybe not them). After listening to him bang on about himself for 45 minutes, I was hyperventilating with impatience.

We were both staying with mutual friends, and the next day another fellow guest asked me, “What’s it like presenting Start the Week?” My dinner companion immediately leant forward, excited. “Do you present Start the Week?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied curtly and returned to the conversation, thinking that just four syllables from him – What do you do? – would have elicited that information the previous night.