Why We Need More Women in Power: An Interview with Mary Ann Sieghart
Mary Ann Sieghart, author of The Authority Gap and chair of the judges for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, says women are undervalued and overlooked. But the reason why we need more women in power has far reaching benefits that go beyond the basic right to gender equality.
In 1999 Mary McAleese was the president of Ireland and attended a special meeting with Pope John Paul II. As they walked towards one another, the Pope turned to McAleese’s husband, Martin, and said: “Would you not prefer to be president of Ireland rather than married to the president of Ireland?”
“We tend to underestimate women,” says Mary Ann Sieghart, who interviewed McAleese for her non-fiction book, The Authority Gap. “We often patronise them. We interrupt them. Talk over them. Don’t listen to what they’re saying, not as attentively as we do to men. We are more reluctant to be influenced by their views than man’s views. We are more likely to challenge their authority and often resist them being in authority over us.”
Sieghart has become an expert on society’s perceptions of women and power. A journalist, formerly assistant editor at The Times, she researched and wrote The Authority Gap, published in 2021. The book contains everything from the findings of large-scale academic research to interviews with highly successful women, including Hillary Clinton; head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, and Booker Prize-winning novelist Bernadine Evaristo. The findings are infuriating. Sieghart’s work shows, again and again, that despite more than a century of women fighting for equality, we are still held back by unconscious bias.