According to the research by PricewaterhouseCoopers, published to coincide with International Women's Day today, 44% of men across the UK think women in top jobs are not unusual and that men and women are equal, in contrast to almost half that - 23% - of female respondents who were asked the same question.
Despite the strong belief of equality progress among male respondents to the survey, almost a fifth believe women will have had to work harder and longer than men to get to the top in business. Almost four out of 10 (39%) of females - nearly twice the level of male responses - believe women have had to work harder and longer to get to the top. The survey was conducted among almost 2,000 people nationwide.
Only 11% of men thought women were good leaders and an inspiration - nearly half of what women believed to be the case (20%); 12% of all respondents said women had a reputation for being aggressive and controlling, rising to 14% among London respondents.
The national survey examined views on women in the most senior jobs in business. Overall 33% said men and women were equal (regional highest in North East, Yorkshire and East Anglia - 36%), 29% said women had to work harder than men to get to the top and for a longer period of time too (regional highest in the South West - 35%),15% said they were an inspiration to others and good leaders too (regional highest in Scotland - 19%), 12% said they had a reputation for being aggressive and controlling (regional highest in London - 14%) and 3% said they were there to make up the numbers, and not as well qualified as men.
Sarah Churchman, director of diversity, PricewaterhouseCoopers, commented: "It's no surprise that men think equality has progressed more than women. Some men don't realise what it's like to face a macho male- dominated culture in a working environment. The fight to the top gets tougher all the time the more squeeze companies put on learning, promotions and pay rises. Job insecurity could reverse the progress we've made in equality because it breeds presenteeism, people protecting their own work and a tougher fight to the top for all.
"The City has worked hard to shake off its alpha-male image and environment, but the underlying impression is still that women have to battle harder to get to the top. It's in our nature to feel we have to prove to ourselves, and others, we can do the job. But in the process, employers need to ensure it's not burning out the best of our City women, because it's the economy as a whole that suffers when we reduce the pipeline of future leaders."