International Women's Day: Global opinion remains committed to gender equality, but half now believe it is coming at the expense of men
Ipsos unveils a new global study carried out in 32 countries in collaboration with the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London for International Women’s Day.
A new global study conducted in 32 countries by Ipsos in collaboration with the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London for International Women’s Day shows that:
- Two-thirds (68% globally, 63% in the U.S.) agree there is currently inequality between men and women in terms of social, political, and/or economic rights in their country, down slightly from 2017.
- However, 1 in 2 globally (54%) and more than 1 in 3 in the U.S. (37%) say that when it comes to giving women equal rights with men, things have gone far enough in their country – proportions that have gradually increased since 2019.
- There are concerns about the impact of equality on men, with over half globally (54%) and one-third in the U.S. (36%) agreeing that men are being expected to do too much to support equality (also up from 2019); about as many (48% globally, 40% in the U.S.) agree that things have gone so far in promoting women’s equality that men are being discriminated against.
- Even so, majorities globally agree that there are actions they can take to help promote equality (62%) and say they have taken at least one such action in the past year (56%). However, Americans are not as likely to say that there are things they can do personally (52%) and that they have taken any action in the past year (42%). There is also evidence of barriers, with over 1 in 3 globally (37%) and 1 in 4 in the U.S. (27%) feeling scared to speak out for women's rights because of what might happen to them – higher than in 2017.
Most agree that there is inequality between men and women — but differ on whether men benefit from gender equality
Looking at respondents across all generations globally, the majority agree that inequality between men and women persists, and that improvements will require efforts from both men and women. A global country average of 68% agree there is currently inequality between men and women in terms of social, political, and/or economic rights in their country. (Looking at the trend since 2017 across a sub-sample of 22 countries, the proportion who believe inequality exists has fallen by 5 points since then.) There is a similar level of agreement that women won’t achieve equality in their country unless men take action to support women’s rights (64% global country average), and that there are actions one can take to help promote equality between men and women (62%).
- The pattern in the U.S. is comparable: majorities of Americans agree there is inequality between men and women (63%, down from 72% in 2017), that women won’t achieve equality unless men take action to support women’s rights (60%), and that there are actions they can personally take to help promote equality between men and women (52%).
On average globally, just over half (55%) believe equality between men and women will be achieved in their lifetime. Optimism that this will happen is now 5 points higher than it was in 2018 on average across the 25 countries surveyed then and again this year. However, only 45% in the U.S. are of this opinion today, down 7 points since 2018. Similarly, more people believe young women will have a better life than their parents’ generation than believe young men will (51% globally and 48% in the U.S. for young women vs. 42% globally and 31% in the U.S. for young men).
When asked whether gender equality mainly benefits women, mainly benefits men, or is good for both men and women, half (53% globally, 54% in the U.S.) say it is good for both genders and another 1 in 6 (18% globally, 15% in the U.S.) say it mainly benefits women. Men are almost twice as likely as women to agree that gender equality mainly benefits women – both across the world and in the U.S. Only 8% globally (7% in the U.S.) say that gender equality mainly benefits men.
Where Americans stand out is on whether things have gone far enough in their country when it comes to giving women equal rights with men. This opinion is a lot less prevalent in the U.S. (37% agree) than it is on average globally (54%). The same applies to whether men are expected to do too much to support equality (36% in the U.S. agree vs. 54% globally) and whether we have gone so far in promoting women’s equality that we’re discriminating against men (40% vs. 48%). There are signs that these views are held more widely now than they were before the Covid pandemic:
- Between 2019 and 2023 the proportion of people who think men are being expected to do too much to support equality has risen by 9 points on average across 25 countries, but it has barely changed in the U.S. (up 1 point).
- At the same time, there has been a rise in the belief that things have gone far enough when it comes to giving women equal rights – both globally (by 7 points) and in the U.S. (by 4 points).
Day-to-day incidents of sexism persist, but most say they're able to take action — despite increasing belief that there's risk in doing so
Four in 10 globally (43% on average) and 1 in 3 in the U.S. (34%) report having witnessed at least one of several forms of gender discrimination in the past year, with the most common being hearing a friend or family member make a sexist comment (27% globally, 24% in the U.S.), followed by seeing examples of gender discrimination at work (20%, 14%), and seeing someone sexually harass a woman (14%, 13%).
Three in 5 globally (59%), but notably fewer in the U.S. (42%), say they’ve taken at least one action to promote gender equality in the past year. The most common actions taken include talking about gender equality with family or friends (32% globally, 24% in the U.S.), speaking up when a friend or family member made a sexist comment (21%, 17%), and talking about gender equality at work (21%, 12%). Half of Americans (50%) and more than 1 in 3 on average globally (37%) say they have taken none of eight possible actions in the last year.
However, there is also evidence of the barriers that are preventing people from taking action to support gender inequality. On average, more than 1 in 3 on average globally (37%) and 1 in 4 in the U.S. (27%) say they are scared to speak out and advocate the equal rights of women because of what might happen to them. This too has increased over the last 6 years: between 2017 and 2023, the average proportion feeling scared to speak out has risen by 9 points on average across 22 countries and by 5 points in the U.S.
When asked directly, respondents also named other barriers: feeling that there’s nothing people can do that will really make a difference (13% globally), not knowing how to talk about gender equality/what next steps should be taken (11%), feeling that it’s irrelevant/unimportant (10%), and feeling concerned about being physically abused or threatened (10%). More positively, the least commonly selected responses were that it’s only a women’s issue (asked of men only; 6%), that people don’t think gender equality exists (6%), and that they don’t want to promote it (5%). Responses in the U.S. were similar to those gathered across all countries.
Younger generations are more optimistic about the future than older age groups, but they are also more cautious about the risk of speaking out and are more concerned that gender equality negatively impacts men
On average across all 32 countries surveyed, Gen Zers (45%) and millennials (44%) are more likely to identify as feminists, compared to Gen Xers (37%) and boomers (36%). The gap is even starker in the U.S. (46% of Gen Zers and 37% of millennials vs. 29% among both Gen Xers and boomers).
Gen Zers and millennials are also more likely than their elders to agree there are actions they can take to promote equality between men and women (65% of both Gen Zers and millennials vs. 61% of Gen Xers and 52% of boomers globally; 53% and 57% vs. 52% and 48% in the U.S.).
Similarly, younger generations are more likely to agree that gender equality will be achieved in their lifetime (60% of Gen Zers and 61% of millennials, vs. 53% of Gen Xers and 44% of boomers globally; 48% and 50% vs. 40% and 43% in the U.S.). Gen Zers are also those most likely to have taken at least one of eight listed actions in support of gender equality in the past year (68% globally and 42% in the U.S.). Reported action-taking drops steadily with each older generation, with boomers the least likely to have taken any action (41% globally and only 22% on the U.S).
Optimism among younger adults comes despite a larger share of Gen Zers (48% globally, 45% in the U.S.) and millennials (43%, 31%) saying they’re scared to speak out for women’s equal rights because of what might happen to them, a fear shared by significantly lower proportions of Gen Xers (32%, 21%) and boomers (23%, 17%). The younger generations are also more likely to say they’ve seen at least one form of discrimination mentioned in the survey (58% Gen Zers and 49% millennials compared with 36% Gen Xers and 26% of boomers).
At the same time, Gen Zers (52% globally, 57% in the U.S) and millennials (53%, 43%) are especially likely to agree that things have gone so far in promoting women’s equality that men are being discriminated against, compared to Gen Xers (46%, 28%) and boomers (40%, 15%). Also, while it is a minority view in all generations, Gen Zers and millennials are more likely to agree that a man who stays home to look after his children is less of a man (30% each of Gen Zers and millennials globally, 21% and 24%, respectively, in the U.S.) than are Gen Xers (22% globally, 10% in the U.S.) and boomers (14% globally, 9% in the U.S.).
About this study
These are the results of a 32-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 22,508 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, 20-74 in Thailand, 21-74 in Indonesia and Singapore and 16-74 in 24 other markets between Friday, December 22, 2022 and Friday, January 6, 2023.