Moving forward

July: The ninth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off

Ipsos | Almanac 2024 | Gender

July saw the beginning of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, a tournament that broke records both on and off the pitch and was described by FIFA President Gianni Infantino ahead of the final match as “simply the best and greatest and biggest FIFA Women’s World Cup ever” and “truly transformational”.

Both Infantino and Australia’s Minister for Sport Anika Wells agreed that the tournament had helped progress not only women’s football but gender equality more broadly, with Wells thanking FIFA for what the organisation had done to “advance gender equality in our country”.

This sentiment was echoed people across the world. In Canada, we saw hopes that the Women’s World Cup would pose as an opportunity to advance women’s sport in general, not just women’s football. More than seven in ten Canadians told us that the competition serves as an important demonstration of gender equality, both in sports (73%) and in general (72%).

Similarly, in Britain, more than four in ten football fans told us that the England women’s football team has had a greater social impact over the past two years than the England men’s team – with only 2pp difference in agreement between male and female football fans.

Foul play

Ipsos | Almanac 2024 | GenderThe 2023 Women’s World Cup was ultimately won by Spain, beating EUFA Women’s Euro 2022 champions England 1-0 in the final. For all the talk about how the competition was serving to advance gender equality and women’s sports, the final was ultimately overshadowed, and Spain’s victory marred, by the actions of Luis Rubiales, then-president of the Spanish football federation.

As the Spanish victors were awarded their medals, and in front of a global audience, Rubiales held midfielder Jenni Hermoso by the head and forcibly kissed her on the lips.

Despite international outrage, the resignation of the entire Spain women’s team and calls for Rubiales to be fired, Rubiales remained unapologetic. At an emergency general assembly meeting held by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (REF) five days after the final, he claimed to be a “victim of a witch hunt by false feminists” and defiantly, repeatedly announced that he would not resign – to applause from the overwhelmingly male audience.

Hermoso has since filed a criminal complaint for sexual assault and Rubiales has been given a three-year ban from football by FIFA. Ultimately progress on gender equality proves to be slow.

From the commentary box

In many ways, the events of the Women’s World Cup mirror what we see in our survey data: progress and regression.

Our 2023 International Women’s Day survey found that seven in ten people (68%) across 32 countries agree that there is currently gender inequality in their country, whether in terms of social, political or economic rights, a 5pp decrease since 2017. Unsurprisingly, more women (72%) than men (63%) agree with this.

On the positive side, one in two say that the lives of young women in their country are now better than the women from their parents’ generation and four in ten now describe themselves as feminists.

However, there has also been a significant rise since 2019 in the proportion of people saying that men are expected to do too much to support equality (+7 to 52%) and that when it comes to giving women equal rights with men, things have gone far enough (+9 to 49%).

Additionally, almost one in two (48%) now say that we have gone so far in promoting women’s equality that we are discriminating against men. With this figure rising to 61% among Spanish men, Rubiales’ defiance in the face of criticism from all sides may look less surprising.

The country view

Global averages hide marked country-level differences and there is a 63pp difference between the countries most and least likely to agree that gender equality campaigns have gone too far.

Strong views in Indonesia (80%), China, Thailand and Saudi Arabia (79% each) offset countries like Portugal (17%), Japan (21%) and Poland (26%) where a majority disagree that things have gone too far when it comes to giving women equal rights with men.

Similarly, while four in ten globally describe themselves as a feminist, more than six in ten say this in India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (63%).

And while fewer than one in five people globally (19%) say they expect young women in their country to have a worse life than women from their parents’ generation, this rises to more than four in ten in Turkey (43%) and Hungary (44%).

Ipsos | Almanac 2024 | Gender

Hope at half time

Looking to the future, more than one in two (55%) expect equality between men and women to be achieved in their lifetime, an increase of 5pp from 2018. And people look prepared to put in the work to get there too.

Over the past year, across 32 countries, more than one in two people (56%) say they’ve taken some form of action to promote gender equality. Most commonly, this took the form of talking about gender equality with friends or family (32%), but a fifth of people also told us they spoke up when a friend or family member made a sexist comment (21%) or spoke about gender equality at work (21%).

Younger generations are leading the way in terms of actions, with almost seven in ten Gen Z (68%) and six in ten Millennials (62%) having taken at least one action to promote gender equality over the past year.

The top barriers preventing people from acting to promote gender equality being the thought that nothing they do will make a difference (13%) and not knowing what to talk about or what to do (11%). This suggests that education may be a particularly effective tool in increasing action. International events like the FIFA Women’s World Cup may prove powerful opportunities.

You can listen to Julia Gillard, Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership discuss the findings of our International Women’s Day survey with Sue Phillips, President of the Ipsos Gender Balance Network in Step Forward.