skip to main content
Eastern Europe: Women Already Leading, Ready for More

Eastern Europe: Women Already Leading, Ready for More

by Galina Zapryanova and Julie Ray

Story Highlights

  • Majorities say it is possible to have a woman leader in 10 years
  • Little preference for male or female managers
  • Fairly egalitarian views of women's access to education
  • Few have heard of #MeToo movements

Fitting with the U.N.'s theme for International Women's Day this year -- women in leadership -- Gallup looks at the never-before-released results on a series of questions that we asked on this topic in 2019 and early 2020.

Gallup asked women and men in 74 countries and territories questions in four areas that are key to starting conversations in an action-driven way: women's leadership in politics and in the workplace, their opportunities for education, and whether movements such as #MeToo help to reduce harassment and sexual abuse of women.

In Eastern Europe, Women Are in Power; Many See More in the Future

With female leaders becoming the new political norm across Eastern Europe, it is not surprising that residents in all Eastern European countries and territories surveyed in 2019 are more likely than not to think a woman will lead their country in the next 10 years.

In most of the 13 countries and territories, a woman has served as a president or prime minister or was currently leading her country at the time of the survey. A median of 63% of residents say it is possible for a woman to lead their country in the next 10 years, while 22% say it is not possible.

Many in Eastern Europe See Possibility of Women Leaders
In your opinion, is it possible or not possible that a woman could be the leader of this country within the next 10 years?
Possible Not possible Woman already leads my country*
% % %
Kosovo** 87 7 --
North Macedonia** 78 14 2
Bulgaria** 75 11 --
Albania 72 22 --
Greece** 71 22 1
Romania** 67 22 --
Serbia** 63 22 9
Bosnia and Herzegovina 61 20 9
Poland** 56 29 1
Hungary 51 33 1
Montenegro 48 38 --
Slovakia** 45 7 44
Croatia** 34 9 51
** Woman has served as prime minister or president. * Volunteered response.
Gallup World Poll, 2019

In Croatia and Slovakia, less than a majority of the population said it was possible for a female to lead their nations. However, this was because so many in these two countries said it was currently the case with two female presidents in office. In Montenegro, where a woman has yet to occupy the top office, less than a majority see a female leader as a possibility, but nearly half (48%) of Montenegrins still do.

Although several of the countries in the region are members of the European Union, E.U. membership does not necessarily tie in with people's gender attitudes. For example, Balkan countries and territories (Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Serbia) that are not in the E.U. rank the possibility of a woman leading them very high. In E.U. member states Poland and Hungary, slimmer majorities do.

No Preference Is the Largest Preference for Managers

While most people in Eastern Europe are open to the idea of a woman being in charge of their country, a median of 40% say they have no preference of whether a man or woman is in charge of them as their manager. But if they do have a preference, they are slightly more likely to favor a man (30%) than a woman (24%) as a boss.

No Preference Is the Largest Preference in Many Countries
Suppose you were taking a new job and had your choice of a manager. Would you prefer to work for a man or a woman?
Woman Man No preference
% % %
Kosovo 52 29 17
Albania 44 25 28
North Macedonia 30 26 41
Montenegro 29 38 27
Romania 27 30 39
Bosnia and Herzegovina 26 29 40
Serbia 24 34 38
Slovakia 23 47 26
Croatia 21 25 51
Poland 20 29 42
Greece 19 31 48
Hungary 15 35 46
Bulgaria 13 31 50
Gallup World Poll, 2019

The preference for a male manager becomes far more defined among men in the region, while women remain largely mixed. Large shares of both still express no preference; a median of 42% of men and 37% of women say it does not matter, but nearly as many men (40%) would prefer a male manager and less than half as many (17%) would prefer a female manager.

Most Countries Fairly Egalitarian on Access to Higher Education

The gender balance in tertiary education varies across Eastern Europe, but in many countries, particularly in the E.U. and E.U. candidates for accession, it tips well in women's favor.

Across all 13 countries and territories surveyed, when people were asked whether a man or woman should get a university scholarship, the odds tipped in neither gender's favor or in favor of women. The latter was true across many of the Balkan States. But overall, a median of 46% say the scholarship could go to either a woman or a man, while a median of 29% say a woman and 15% say a man.

Eastern Europeans Either Have No Preference or Prefer to GIve Scholarships to Women
Suppose a university is going to give just ONE scholarship that pays all expenses related to education. There are two people who are equally qualified -- a young man and a young woman. In your opinion, who should receive this scholarship, the man or the woman?
The woman The man No preference
% % %
Kosovo 73 14 12
Albania 63 15 17
Montenegro 55 10 31
North Macedonia 40 22 31
Serbia 36 15 45
Bosnia and Herzegovina 35 10 50
Romania 29 15 49
Slovakia 27 22 46
Poland 23 20 40
Greece 21 16 60
Bulgaria 19 12 53
Hungary 15 8 70
Croatia 14 9 72
Gallup World Poll, 2019

Men and women throughout the region share similar views -- with most feeling that the scholarship could go to either. However, women who had a preference generally were more likely to tip in favor of their sisters -- a median of 35% say the scholarship should go to a woman, while 10% say a man.

#MeToo Movement Largely an Unknown

Women in Eastern Europe are no strangers to gender-based harassment and domestic violence. An OSCE survey conducted the same year as Gallup's found 70% of women in the region had faced at least some form of gender-based harassment, and 74% didn't know where to go in these situations.

However, the #MeToo movement, which originated in the United States, failed to gain much traction in the region, which is evident in the median of 45% who volunteered that they had never heard of such movements. Women were no more likely than men to have heard of it.

Among people who had heard of it, people are more likely to say that it has been helpful (26%) rather than not (18%). This story was similar for men and women across the region.

#MeToo Largely Unknown in Eastern Europe
MeToo is a worldwide movement to publicly condemn sexual harassment and sexual assault of women. Do you think movements like MeToo help to reduce harassment and sexual abuse of women in this country?
Yes No Never heard of it
% % %
Kosovo 62 14 21
Albania 39 18 32
Greece 39 13 43
Hungary 36 20 38
Romania 32 23 33
Serbia 28 25 39
Bosnia and Herzegovina 26 8 59
Slovakia 26 23 45
Poland 25 16 50
North Macedonia 24 18 50
Montenegro 22 17 47
Croatia 18 16 59
Bulgaria 17 20 49
Gallup World Poll, 2019

Bottom Line

Two to three decades after their countries' democratic transitions, female leaders in East-Central Europe and the Balkans are gaining acceptance in public life and in public attitudes. Large majorities also view access to education through an egalitarian prism, and that is manifested in the high educational attainment of women in the region.

Outside the sphere of education, however, some significant challenges for women in the region do remain. Domestic violence and sexual harassment are serious problems in many countries, and Western movements such as #MeToo have not gained significant traction. Additionally, while workforce participation has been an accepted norm for women for decades by now, attitudes toward female managers are mixed and less egalitarian than when it comes to education.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030