IWD 2022: Women are more likely to perceive institutional bias against them

Women are more likely to perceive institutional bias against women than men, particularly governments and social media.

The author(s)
  • Jessica Bruce Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
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International Women's Day 2022 - Ipsos


While the proportion of people defining themselves as a feminist has increased, opposition to feminism persists, particularly amongst men 

The proportion of people who would define themselves as a feminist has increased since this was last surveyed by Ipsos in 2019. A global country average of 40% identify as such compared with 33% in 2019. This represents a return to the levels seen in 2018, where 37% agreed. Almost half of women define themselves as a feminist compared to a third of men (47% vs 32%). 

The findings show that there is a risk of progress on gender equality stalling as almost half of those surveyed (a global country average of 47%) think things have gone far enough when it comes to giving women equal rights with men, in line with survey findings from 2020 (48%). Men are more likely to agree than women (52% vs 43%). Of note, younger people are more likely to agree, with 50% of Gen Z and 51% of Millennials agreeing compared to 47% of Gen X and 42% of Baby Boomers.  

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, there are a range of reasons leading to people choosing not to have children in the last two years. Most commonly among those under 50, financial concerns were a barrier (selected by a global country average of 26%), followed by being single (19%), and the COVID-19 pandemic (14%). Other factors included existing caring responsibilities (13%), concerns due to political instability in their country (10%), children not fitting into their lifestyle (10%) and wanting to complete educational studies/qualifications (10%). When comparing participants of all ages, there was very little difference in the responses of men and women; for example, men and women were 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 in the proportion of people who think workplaces in their country treat men and women equally (44% vs 41% in 2020).  Men are more likely to agree (51%) than women (35%).  

  • When given a list of activities which could be damaging to someone’s career, the areas that people think are most likely to impact a woman’s career more than a man’s include having childcare responsibilities come up during the working day (35% think it will damage a woman’s career vs 9% for men), having other caring responsibilities come up during the working day (28% vs 9% for men) and prioritising family over work (28% vs 10% for men). Women were more likely than men to perceive potential damage to women’s careers. 

  • A quarter of participants stated that 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 (25%), with women more likely to be affected than men (31% vs 19%). In total, 18% of women said that caring responsibilities have prevented them from applying for a job or promotion.  

Despite these gendered differences, men and women’s prioritisation of flexible working options is very similar. Almost four in 10 people (a global country average of 38%) would like to have more flexibility in when they start and finish work, 31% would like flexibility in their work location, and a quarter each would like to work fewer hours per week or to work their hours in fewer days.  

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

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

  • Institutions that more people say treat women worse than men are the government (32% global country average vs 16% who say that women are treated better), the media (29% vs 19% better), the police (27% vs 20% better) and courts and prisons (22% vs 18% better). 

  • Social media receives the worst scores, and was the only institution where people are as likely to think women are treated worse than about the same (37%, vs 35% who think women are treated about the same as men and 16% who say women are threated better).  

  • People are slightly more likely to think women are treated better than men by educational institutions and health services (22% each, vs 16% and 17% respectively who think women are treated worse); these two institutions also had the highest proportion of people thinking they treat men and women about the same (52% and 51%, respectively).  

Gender-based violence ranked as top issue facing women, with women more likely to recognise 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. The top three issues selected are sexual harassment (global country average of 29%), sexual violence (25%) and domestic abuse (23%). Physical violence is ranked fifth (20%). 

Equal pay ranks fourth, with women more likely than men to see equal pay as an important issue (22% vs 17%). Women are also more likely to see balancing work and caring responsibilities as an issue (17% vs 12%), and the amount of unpaid work women do (17% compared to 8% of men).

At a country level, equal pay was highlighted as an issue more often in European countries, Canada, the USA and Chile. Middle-income countries tended to be more likely to raise 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 was ranked highly in Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

Discover our focus on gender bias and online harm

This 30-country survey was conducted between Friday, January 21, and Friday, February 4, 2022, on Ipsos’ Global Advisor online survey platform among 20,524 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, 21-74 in Singapore, and 16-74 in all 24 other countries.
The author(s)
  • Jessica Bruce Ipsos Public Affairs, UK