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As part of an IWDA project on people’s perceptions of women as leaders in Timor-Leste in 2018, Monash University contracted Bridging Peoples to carry out in-country management and rolling out of surveys across the country. The research was combined quantitative and qualitative, forming part of a wider research project across Asia and the Pacific, with the intention of supporting better, more targeted support for aspirant women leaders in different countries.

Often, the lack of women in powerful political positions is presumed to reflect the lower levels of exposure and capacity of women in performing these roles, with interventions aimed to support women in becoming better policy makers. However, research results clearly indicate other areas where programming for aspirant women leaders might focus, to recognise and address citizens’ gendered perceptions of women as leaders, and improve their chances of election to political positions—including transforming communications around community expectations of ‘ideal womanly traits’ that are in direct opposition to the competitive traits expected of political leaders.