Seven in Ten Canadians (69%) Believe There Are Unequal Rights for Women in Canada

Nearly Two in Ten (16%) Are Scared to Speak Up About Women’s Rights ‘Because of What Might Happen’

Toronto, ON — As countries around the world prepare to mark International Women’s Day on March 8th, seven in ten Canadians (69%) agree (22% very much / 47% somewhat) there is currently an inequality between women and men in terms of social, political or economic rights in Canada. This is one of the key results of a new Ipsos survey on feminism and gender equality around the world, for which more than 17,500 people were interviewed across 24 countries. Views on women’s equality in Canada are close to the 72% global average, and a majority in all countries except Russia (42%) agree equality is still not achieved. Agreement is strongest in Sweden, where 84% agree there is current inequality between women and men, while the United States 72% share this view, matching the global average.

Women in Canada (72%) are only somewhat more likely than men (67%) to see unequal rights by gender in this country. Canadians with higher education (76%) are more likely than those with less education (67%) to perceive an inequality here, but no significant differences are noted by age group or region.

When it comes to their own personal situation, Canadian women tend to be somewhat more optimistic. While four in ten women (40%) worldwide disagree with the idea that they have full equality with men, in Canada this number is about half as high. That said, this means two in ten (22%) Canadian women feel (4% very much / 18% somewhat) they don’t have full equality with men or the freedom to reach their full dreams and aspirations. American women (37%) are even more likely to feel this way, while in Spain, a remarkable three in four women (73%) feel they don’t have full equality or freedom to fulfill their aspirations.

Negative Attitudes Towards Women

Canadian women’s comparatively positive assessment of the level of gender equality they enjoy coincides with this country having some of the lowest rates of negative opinions about women in the world. For instance, only one in ten Canadians (11%) believe (3% very much / 9% somewhat) ‘that men are more capable of doing things in society such as working, earning money, being educated and teaching than women’, placing it second to last in the global ranking (Spain is last at 9%). On average, one in four (25%) share this opinion globally. This view is most prevalent in China, where more than half (56%) agree.

Canada is the least likely of all countries to agree that ‘women should not aspire to do anything outside of the household and should produce children and tend to their family.’ One in ten Canadians (8%) hold this view (2% very much / 6% somewhat), compared to more than four in ten (44%) in India, and a worldwide average of 17%.

One in ten Canadians (11%) believe (2% very much / 9% somewhat) that ‘women are inferior to men.’ Spain is again the country where this view is least prevalent (only 7% agree), while it is much more widespread in Russia and India (both 46%). On average, globally, nearly two in ten (18%) agree.

A Safe Place to Take a Stand?

In a climate where views such as these persist (and not always in private), some people say they are scared to speak out and advocate the equal rights of women because of what might happen to them. In Canada, nearly two in ten (16%) agree (4% very much / 12% somewhat) they’re afraid to speak out – and the number is virtually identical among women (16%) and men (17%). Globally, one in four (24%) have the same fears, while in the US, 22% agree. Fear of the consequences of speaking up for equal rights for women is by far the most pronounced in India, where half (50%) of respondents say they’re scared to speak out. Germany is the safest place to take a stand for women’s rights, though even there, more than one in ten (13%) are afraid of what might happen.

Feminism: Theory vs. Practice

In Canada, while nearly everyone (93%) says they believe (72% very much / 21% somewhat) in equal opportunities for men and women – that women should be treated equally to men in all areas based on their competency and not their gender – in practice, only six in ten (59%) define themselves as feminists (20% very much / 39% somewhat). For the purposes of the survey, a feminist is described as ‘someone who advocates and supports equal opportunities for women.’ Just as many (59%) agree (21% very much / 39% somewhat) that they advocate and support equal opportunities for women, saying they do more than just think about these things, they actually speak up and out to change things for women in their country.

Canada places fifth overall for believing in equal opportunities, just one point behind top-ranked Sweden (94%) and above the global average of 88% (Japan has the least agreement on equal opportunities, at 71%). However, we fall roughly in the middle of the pack when it comes to seeing ourselves as feminists: one point above the global average (58%) and well ahead of last-placed Germany (37%), but also far behind leader India (83%) and two points behind the United States (61%). In terms of active support for women’s right, Canada lags toward the tail end of the global rankings, with only South Korea (56%), Great Britain (56%), Germany (51%) and Japan (28%) having less active support. Conversely, China is at 87%, and the global average is 68% (the US stands at 61%).

A majority of Canadian men (57%) and women (62%) define themselves as feminists, as is the case for Baby Boomers (64%), Gen X’ers (55%) and Millennials (60%).

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between January 20 and February 3, 2017. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Sean Simpson
Vice President, Canada
Ipsos Public Affairs
+1 416 324-2002
[email protected]

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks third in the global research industry. With offices in 88 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across five research specializations: brand, advertising and media, customer loyalty, marketing, public affairs research, and survey management. Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe. Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,669.5 ($2,218.4 million) in 2014.