Bridging ‘The Authority Gap’

2nd August 2021

News, Alumni news

Why women are still taken less seriously than men, and what we can do about it is the subject of a brilliant new book from alumna Mary Ann Sieghart.

  • Mary Ann Sieghart

    Mary Ann Sieghart (PPE, 1979)

A brilliant manifesto explaining why women are still so underestimated and overlooked in today's world, but how we can also be hopeful for change 

Philippa Perry

The Authority Gap provides a startling perspective on the unseen bias at work in our everyday lives, to reveal the scale of the gap that still persists between men and women. It seems incredible that female US Supreme Court Justices are interrupted four times more often than male ones... 96% of the time by men. And British parents, when asked to estimate their child's IQ will place their son at 115 and their daughter at 107.

Mary Ann (PPE, 1979) asks us to imagine living in a world in which you were routinely patronised by women; imagine having your views ignored or your expertise frequently challenged by them; imagine people always addressing the woman you are with before you. And then to imagine a world in which the reverse of this is true.

Writing about the book, Mary Ann comments: “However much lip service we pay to gender equality these days, we still instinctively find it easier to accord authority to men than to women. And we still instinctively find it easier to associate women with bringing up children and being an attractive clothes horse. There is still what I call an authority gap between women and men.”

An impassioned, meticulously argued and optimistic call to arms for anyone who cares about creating a fairer society 


In a recent Guardian article, the byline reads MA Sieghart, not Mary Ann. Why? “Because I really want men to read it too. Female authors through the centuries, from the Brontë sisters to George Eliot to JK Rowling, have felt obliged to disguise their gender to persuade boys and men to read their books. But now? Is it really still necessary? The sad answer is yes.”

Results from Nielsen Book Research for The Authority Gap confirmed Mary-Ann’s suspicion that men were disproportionately unlikely even to open a book by a woman.

Marshalling a wealth of data with precision and insight, and including interviews with pioneering women such as Baroness Hale, Mary Beard, Cherie Blair, Julia Gillard, Louise Richardson, Michelle Bachelet and Bernadine Evaristo, Mary Ann exposes unconscious bias in The Authority Gap, a fresh feminist take on how to address and counteract systemic sexism in ways that benefit us all.

Mary Ann Sieghart spent 20 years as Assistant Editor and columnist at The Times and won a large following for her columns on politics, economics, feminism, parenthood and life in general. She has presented many programmes on BBC Radio 4, such as Start the Week, Profile, Analysis and One to One. She chaired the revival of The Brains Trust on BBC2 and recently spent a year as a Visiting Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. She has chaired the Social Market Foundation think tank and sits on numerous boards. She is currently a Visiting Professor at King’s College London.

  • Cover of Book - The Authority Gap

At last here is a credible roadmap that is capable of taking women from the margins to the centre by bridging the authority gap that holds back even the best and most talented of women

Mary McAleese, Former President of Ireland