One in three people around the world believe childcare responsibilities damage a woman’s career more than a man’s

Global survey finds wide gender gap in perceptions of institutional bias against women; one-quarter of U.S. women say caring responsibilities have impacted their career

March 7, 2022 – A new global study conducted by Ipsos in collaboration with the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London for International Women’s Day shows that, on average, across 30 countries:

  • People believe that women are more likely to be judged in the workplace in relation to family and caring responsibilities, and just under half think workplaces treat men and women equally
  • Men are less likely to recognize issues facing women, including institutional bias, and more likely to think educational and health services treat women better than men

While the proportion of people defining themselves as “feminists” has increased, opposition to feminism persists, particularly among men

The proportion of adults who agree with the statement “I define myself as a feminist” has increased since it was last measured by Ipsos in 2019. In 2022 a global country average of 40% agree compared with 33% in 2019. This represents a return to the levels seen in 2018 when 37% agreed.

  • Globally, almost half of women (47%) define themselves as feminists compared to one-third of men (32%).
  • The prevalence of feminist identification in the United States is close to the global average: 38% of U.S. adults define themselves as feminists, including 44% of women and 32% of men.
  • Among Americans, feminist identification is highest among Democrats (60%), Gen Zers (59%), and business decision-makers and professionals (51%) and lowest among Republicans (21%) and Gen Xers (28%).

The findings show that there is a risk of progress on gender equality stalling as almost half of those surveyed across the world (global country average of 47%) and one-third in the U.S. (34%) think things have gone far enough when it comes to giving women equal rights with men, in line with survey findings from 2020 (48% and 33%, respectively).

  • Men are more likely to agree than women (52% vs. 43% globally, 39% vs. 30% in the U.S.). Of note, younger people are more likely to agree, both globally and in the U.S.
  • Men are more likely to agree that gender inequality doesn’t really exist than women (21% vs. 14% globally, 22% vs. 13% in the U.S.). In several countries, the proportion of men who agree is double the proportion of women (including Australia, 30% vs. 14%; Romania, 27% vs. 13%; and Russia, 30% vs. 12%).

Workplace bias relating to caring responsibilities seems to be hitting women hardest, but flexible working policies would benefit both women and men

While some countries’ national statistics have shown a decline in birth rates during the COVID-19 pandemic[1], there is a range of reasons leading to people choosing not to have children in the last two years. Most commonly among those under 50 globally, financial concerns are most cited as a barrier (selected by a global country average of 26%), followed by being single (19%), and the COVID-19 pandemic (14%). Other factors include existing caring responsibilities (13%), concerns due to political instability in the country (10%), children not fitting into one’s lifestyle (10%), and wanting to complete educational studies or qualifications (10%).

  • When comparing participants of all ages, there is very little difference in the responses of men and women; for example, men and women are equally likely to select concerns about the impact on their career (6% each).

When thinking more broadly about gender in the workplace:

  • There has been a marginal increase at the global level in the proportion of people who think workplaces in their country treat men and women equally: from 41% in 2020 to 44%. In the U.S., it went from 36% to 38%, which is not statistically significant.
    • Men continue to be more likely than women to agree than women (51% vs. 35% globally, 51% vs. 26% in the U.S.)
  • When given a list of activities that could be damaging to someone’s career, the areas people think are most likely to impact a woman’s career more than a man’s career are:
    • Having childcare responsibilities come up during the working day (globally, 35% think it will damage a woman’s career more vs. 9% a man’s career more; in the U.S., 38% vs. 6%),
    • Having other caring responsibilities come up during the working day (globally, 28% more damaging for women vs. 9% more damaging for men; in the U.S., 32% vs. 6%),
    • Prioritizing family over work (globally, 28% vs. 10%; in the U.S., 27% vs.9%).

Globally and in the U.S., women are about twice as likely as men to consider that these activities are more likely to damage a woman’s career than a man’s.

  • One-quarter of all those surveyed globally (30-country average of 25%) and one-fifth in the U.S (19%) say childcare or caring responsibilities have prevented them from applying for a job or promotion or have caused them to leave or consider leaving a job, with women more likely to be affected than men (31% vs. 19% globally, 25% vs. 14% in the U.S). More specifically:
    • 18% of women globally and 16% in the U.S. say caring responsibilities have prevented them from applying for a job or promotion.
    • 10% both globally and in the U.S. say childcare or other caring responsibilities have led them to leave a job

Despite these gendered differences, men and women’s prioritization of flexible working options is very similar. On average across the 30 countries surveyed:

  • 38% (36% in the U.S.) would like to have more flexibility in when they start and finish work,
  • 31% (27% in the U.S.) would like more flexibility in their work location,
  • 26% (21% in the U.S.) would like to work fewer hours per week, and
  • 25% (29% in the U.S.) would like to work their hours in fewer days.

People are most likely to see institutions as treating men and women equally, although institutional bias is recognized – most commonly against women

When asked whether different institutions treat women better, worse, or about the same as men, generally people across the world are most likely to think institutions treat women and men equally. However, women feel there is more institutional bias against women than men do. Globally:

  • Social media receives the worst scores and is the only institution that as many people say treats women worse than men as say it treats them about the same (37%, vs. 35%) while only 16% say women are treated better than men by social media.
  • While pluralities consider they treat women about the same as men, more people say of four other institutions that they treat women worse than men than say they treat women better: the government (global country average of 32% for worse vs. 16% for better, the media (29% vs. 19%), the police (27% vs. 20%), and courts and prisons (22% vs. 18%).
  • People are slightly more likely to think women are treated better than men by educational institutions (22% better vs. 16% worse) and health services (22% vs. 17%); both of these institutions also show the highest proportions of people thinking they treat men and women about the same (52% and 51%, respectively).

Compared to the global average, Americans are more likely to say women are treated worse than men by the media (37%, 8 percentage points more), health services (25%, 8 points more), government (39%, 7 points more) and educational institutions (21%, 5 points more). However, they are less likely to say it is the case with the police (18%, 9 points less).

Globally, gender-based violence ranked as the top issue facing women, with women more likely to recognize issues of equal pay, balancing work and caring responsibilities, and unpaid work

People are most likely to select issues relating to gender-based violence when considering the most important issues facing women and girls. Globally, the top issues selected include:

  • Sexual harassment (30-country average of 29%, but 22% in the U.S.),
  • Sexual violence (25% globally, 22% in the U.S.),
  • Domestic abuse (23% both globally and in the U.S.), and
  • Physical violence (20% globally, 14% in the U.S.).

Equal pay also ranks fourth globally (20%), but first among Americans (26%). Women are more likely than men to see equal pay as an important issue both globally (22% vs. 17%) and in the U.S. (30% vs. 23%). Women are also more likely to see balancing work and caring responsibilities as an issue (17% vs. 12% globally, 21% vs. 12% in the U.S.), and the amount of unpaid work women do (17% compared to 8% of men globally, 11% vs. 3% in the U.S).

Along with the U.S., equal pay is most highlighted as an issue in Canada, across Europe, and in Chile. Citizens of middle-income countries tend to prioritize issues relating to sexual harassment, sexual violence, and physical violence (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, and Turkey). Balancing work and caring responsibilities and a lack of financial/economic independence are ranked highly in Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.

“Women often bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities, caregiving, and household labor, and the pandemic has threatened the ability for some women to remain and advance in the workforce," said Mallory Newall, vice president, Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs. "We should ask ourselves, ‘why are tasks like childcare responsibilities seen as more damaging to a woman's career than a man?’ The past two years have shown that flexible work environments can benefit both employees and employers alike, and can also help women in the workplace.

About the Study

These are the results of a 30-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 20,524 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, aged 21-74 in Singapore, and 16-74 in 24 other countries between January 21 and February 4, 2022.

The sample consists of approximately 1,000 interviews in each of Australia, Brazil, Canada, mainland China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the U.S., and 500 individuals in each of Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and Turkey.

The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S. can be taken as representative of their general adult population under the age of 75.

The samples in Brazil, Chile, mainland China, Colombia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, and Turkey are more urban, more educated, and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for these countries should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of their population.

The data is weighted so that each country’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data.

“The Global Country Average” reflects the average results for all the countries where the survey was conducted. It has not been adjusted to the population size of each country and is not intended to suggest a total result.

Where results do not sum to 100 or the “difference” appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don’t know” or not stated responses.

The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/-3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points. For more information on Ipsos’ use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website. The publication of these findings abides by local rules and regulations.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Nicolas Boyon
Senior Vice President,
Public Affairs, U.S.
[email protected]

Mallory Newall
Vice President,
Public Affairs, U.S.
[email protected]

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest Insights and Analytics company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP

[1] See, for example