A hard day’s work: global attitudes to gender equality in the workplace

Gender equality at work is still not achieved as nearly three in ten men (28%) around the world think it’s acceptable to tell jokes or stories of a sexual nature at work, according to a new global survey to mark International Women’s Day. By contrast, only 16% of women globally say such jokes or stories are acceptable.

The author(s)

  • Kelly Beaver Public Affairs, UK
  • Kully Kaur-Ballagan Public Affairs, UK
  • Suzanne Hall Public Affairs, UK
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs, UK
  • Maelys Bablon Public Affairs, UK
Get in touch

A new global study carried out in 27 countries by Ipsos MORI, in collaboration with the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London for International Women’s Day shows men and women remain divided about gender equality in the workplace. The online survey of carried out with 20,204 adults aged 16-74 yr olds finds.

Most people around the world do not think that workplaces in their country are a level playing field for men and women – and there is a big gender gap here…

Who calls our inappropriate beaviour? | International Women's Day | IWD 2020 | IpsosGlobally, almost half of men (49%) agree that there is gender equality in the workplace in their country compared with just three in ten women (32%).

Countries where inequality in the workplace is felt to be greatest are Brazil (72%), Japan (71%) and France (69%). Conversely, those in Malaysia (68%), China (60%) and India (54%) are most likely to agree there is equality in the workplace between men and women.

Representation matters; gender equality won’t be achieved unless there are more female leaders in business and government

Close to six in ten people (58%) agree that women won’t achieve equality with men unless there are more female leaders in business and government, a third (36%) disagree.

However, the gender gap persists: two-thirds of women agree (65%) compared with half (51%) of men.

There is strongest agreement with this statement in India (69%), South Africa (69%) and Japan (68%) whereas those most likely to disagree are people in China (61%), Russia (49%) and South Korea (47%).

And both men and women acknowledge that men need to play their part in helping to achieve gender equality

The vast majority of people surveyed (68%) believe that equality won’t be achieved between men and women unless men take actions to support women too although close to three in ten (27%) disagree.

Here there is much less of gender divide between the sexes: three-quarters (74%) of women agree as do six in ten men (62%).

Respondents most likely to agree that men need to play their part in achieving equality are in South Africa (80%), India (78%) and Hungary (77%). At the other end, countries where people are least likely to say that men should play their part are the Netherlands (53%), Russia (49%) and China (42%).

Kelly Beaver, Public Affairs, Ipsos MORI

Kelly Beaver, Managing Director of Ipsos MORI Public Affairs’ team, said:

Equality won’t happen without both men and women making changes and in the world of work, which is still dominated by men, we need more men to start prioritising equality and making a stand when required.

What is acceptable at work?

What is acceptable at work? | International Women's Day | IWD 2020 | IpsosDisplaying sexual material

Globally, this rises to more than one in eight men (13%) who say displaying sexual content at work is acceptable, almost double the proportion of women (7%) who think the same.

Men in China are by far the most likely to say this is OK, with nearly a third (32%) seeing it as acceptable. Nearly a quarter of women (23%) in India say the same – the most of any country polled.

Asking a colleague for a date even when they’ve said no

But around the world, a higher proportion – more than one in six men (15%) – say this is acceptable, compared with nearly one in 10 women (9%) who hold this view.

People in Malaysia (29%) and India (26%) are most likely to think this is OK, while China has the biggest gender divide in opinion, with 30% of men saying it’s acceptable compared with 15% of women.

Asking a colleague for a date

Globally, 52% of men and 41% of women say it’s acceptable to ask a colleague for a date.

Men (37%) and women (19%) in the US are least likely to think this is acceptable.

Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister and Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, said:

The workplace is one of the most important battlegrounds in the fight for equality between women and men, and these findings show we still have some way to go. While those who help fuel toxic work environments are in the minority, it’s nonetheless a significant one – and their views can make people’s working lives a misery. If employers want to pay more than just lip service to gender equality, they need to invest in creating cultures that value diversity and inspire respect for all.

Who calls out inappropriate behaviour?

People in Sweden (69%), South Africa (68%) and Spain (63%) are most likely to say they would feel confident in telling off a senior colleague who makes a sexist comment, while people in Japan (31%), Poland (32%) and France (38%) are least likely.

71% of Russians say they would feel confident confronting a man who is harassing a woman in a public place, while at the other end of the spectrum, 29% of people in Japan and 31% of those in South Korea say the same.

What disproportionately harms women’s careers? | International Women's Day | IWD 2020 | IpsosWhat disproportionately harms women’s careers?

Globally, people predict less of a gender divide in the way such choices or responsibilities might harm a woman’s or a man’s career. However, for some issues, there remains a split:

  • 26% say rejecting a colleague who wanted a date or romantic relationship is more likely to damage the career of a woman, compared with 7% who say a man’s career is more likely to harmed.
  • 14% think a woman who talks about her family life is more likely to have her career harmed – more than twice as many as those who think a man’s career is more likely impacted for doing the same (6%).
  • 25% think prioritising family over work is more likely to harm a woman’s career, while 9% think a man’s career is more likely to be harmed.
Kully Kaur-Ballagan, Public Affairs, Ipsos MORI

Kully Kaur-Ballagan, Research Director at Ipsos said:

This research illustrates how far we still have to go to gain equality in the workplace and what is clear is that women cannot do it on their own. We need men to take action and for employers to support women who want to take on leadership roles.

These are the findings of a survey conducted in 27 countries via Global Advisor, the online survey platform of Ipsos, between 24 January - 7 February 2020. For this survey, Ipsos interviewed a total of 20,204 adults aged: 16-74 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Sweden; 18-74 in Canada, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States of America; 19-74 in South Korea.

The author(s)

  • Kelly Beaver Public Affairs, UK
  • Kully Kaur-Ballagan Public Affairs, UK
  • Suzanne Hall Public Affairs, UK
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs, UK
  • Maelys Bablon Public Affairs, UK

Society