Half of Brits think there are more advantages to being a man than a woman

A new global study by Ipsos MORI, in collaboration with the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London and International Women’s Day, investigates global attitudes towards gender equality and men's role in its achievement.

The author(s)

  • Kully Kaur-Ballagan Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
  • Suzanne Hall Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
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A new global study by Ipsos MORI, in collaboration with the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London and International Women’s Day, finds that 49% of Brits think that there are more advantages to being a man than a woman in today’s society. Just one in ten (11%) think that there are more advantages to being a woman. The remaining 27% think there is no difference.

Half of Brits (49%) believe that young women today will have a better life than women of their parents’ generation. A quarter (25%) think it will be about the same, but 19% think things will be worse. Older generations are more pessimistic with 21% saying it will be worse compared to 15% of under 35s.

British men acknowledge that they play a role

The study finds that three in five (60%) British men agree that women won’t achieve equality unless they also take action to support them. Half of British men do not think they are being expected to do too much to support women’s equality, although a third (35%) do.  This is almost a mirror image of the global picture where 50% of men agree too much is expected of them to support women’s equality and 39% disagree.

Equal pay, better education and more men speaking out is key to women’s equality

Two in five people in Britain (40%) think that the most important factor in achieving equality between men and women is equal pay, followed by educating boys and girls about the importance of gender equality in schools (27%). Whilst one in five (21%) think some of the other most important factors are tougher laws to prevent violence and harassment, and more men speaking out when women are treated unfairly.

Half of people in Britain (50%) think not enough is being done to achieve equal rights between men and women in business and in looking after children and the home. This is significantly higher than their concerns that not enough is being done to progress this issue in government and politics (43%), the media, including TV and cinema (43%), science and technology (40%), sport (38%) and education (34%). 

Most think equality efforts have not gone far enough

While a third of Brits (29%) believe that equality has gone far enough in Great Britain, almost two thirds (59%) disagree with the statement. Two in five (42%) under 35s define themselves as feminists, compared to 35% of all Brits. Across the generations 62% of British people agree that achieving equality between men and women is personally important to them (similar to findings in 2018 at 64%).

The 27-country survey shows that equal pay is the most important issue facing women in Britain, with 29% of people citing it as an issue. However, there are higher levels of concern about this issue amongst the more affluent members of society, with only 22% of lower income people citing this as an issue compared to 31% of medium and 28% of higher income people. Other important issues facing women in Britain include: sexual harassment, domestic abuse, sexualisation of women and girls in the media (all 20%), and balancing work and caring responsibilities (19%). Concern about sexual harassment rises to 26% among under 35s. 

Finally, close to two in five in Great Britain (38%) think that the #metoo movement has made a positive impact on society, compared to just 16% who think it has had a negative effect.

Kelly Beaver, Managing Director of Ipsos MORI’s Social Research Institute says

The study shows there is still a long road ahead to achieving gender equality globally. What’s more, we know from previous work that people underestimate the scale of the task in hand. However, the survey does offer some green shoots of optimism; it is clear that attitudes towards masculinity and gender roles are changing, with childcare no longer being seen as the preserve of women. People are optimistic that discrimination in some aspects of life – such as education will end in the next couple of decades. However, in order to progress in many other spheres a number of fundamentals need to change – from ensuring women are safe from violence and harassment and that women and men have equal pay at work. The findings highlight that none of this can be achieved without the support of men. Men are integral if we are to achieve balance for better.

Glenda Slingsby, International Women’s Day, says:

A balanced world is a better world. The findings of the study highlight that everyone can play a role in forging gender parity. Gender balance is not a women's issue, it's an economic issue - so advocacy, inclusive mindsets and tangible action are needed from all. In many respects, the study indicates that we've moved on from women having to succeed in a man's world. Stereotypes are being challenged and more diverse representation of women is evident. Clearly, however, there is still a continuing need worldwide for more progressive mindsets and inclusive behaviours to be forged. Hopefully, through studies such as this and campaign themes with a strong call-to-action and widespread appeal - like our International Women's Day 2019 #BalanceforBetter theme - collectively everyone everywhere can strive for women's equality and continue to make positive gains.

Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the Global Institute of Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, says:

The study shows that around the world people rightly believe gender equality has not gone far enough. While the issues we prioritise may be different country by country, there is a real consensus that men must play their part if we are to achieve true parity between the sexes.
It is also heartening to see that attitudes towards male and female roles are changing. Politicians and business leaders must hear and act on that message. We need to redouble efforts to accelerate progress in tackling gender gaps and increasing female representation in positions of power.

The global picture

  • Globally, half (52%) believe there are more advantages to being a man than a woman in society today. Just over one in ten (12%) believe that being a woman is more advantageous than being a man, whereas a quarter (26%) believe there are no differences between men and women.
  • Respondents in Chile (72%), Colombia (64%), Hungary (63%) and Argentina (62%) are significantly more likely to say there are more advantages to being a man. On the other hand, respondents in Poland (33%), Malaysia (36%) and India (38%) are the least likely to say there are more advantages in today's society to being a man than a woman.

Close to half believe the push for gender equality hasn’t gone far enough

  • More people disagree (49%) than agree (42%) that, when it comes to giving women equality, things have gone far enough.  This marks a change from 2018 where 45% both agreed and disagreed with this statement – suggesting that perhaps the push for equality is gaining wider traction. 
  • Brits and the Japanese lead the charge in thinking things haven’t gone far enough (both 59%) followed by Australians (57%).  Conversely, people in Spain (62%), Peru (60%) and India (59%) are mostly likely to agree things have gone too far. Overall, men are more likely to agree things have gone far enough (46%) compared to women (37%).
  • Fewer people across the world now say they would describe themselves as a feminist compared to 2018. Globally, a third of people (33%) say they would describe themselves as a feminist which is a fall from 2018 figures (37%).
  • Those most likely to identify as feminists are in India (50%), South Africa (44%) and Spain (44%). Those least likely to do so are in Japan (18%), Hungary (20%), and Russia (20%).

Will life be better than my parents’ generation?

  • Globally, half (50%) say that young women will have a better life than women from their parents’ generation. A quarter (23%) think it will be the same. For young men, 42% believe they will have a better life than men of their parents’ generation and 27% say it will be the same. 
  • Countries with the most positive outlook about women compared to their parents’ generation are Chile (75%), Colombia (69%) and India (66%). 
  • One in five (21%) believe that young women will have a worse life than their parents’ generation and this rises to 45% in Turkey, 39% in Hungary and 35% in Serbia. Britain is in line with the global average with 49% saying they will have a better life and 19% saying it will be worse.
  • Two-thirds of people globally (65%) say that achieving equality between men and women is important to them personally - although this has fallen five points since last year (70%), suggesting that, at a more personal level, gender equality has become less of a priority.  
  • Respondents in Peru (80%), Colombia (78%) and South Africa, Spain and Chile (all 76%) are most likely to agree that achieving equality between men and women is important to them personally, whereas respondents in Japan (36%) and Russia (45%) and the Netherlands (52%) are least likely to say this.

Attitudes towards masculinity are changing – childcare is no longer seen as a women’s job and the majority say they would be comfortable with having a female boss

  • In most countries childcare is no longer seen as the preserve of the woman; three-quarters globally (75%) disagree that a man who stays at home to look after his children is less of a man compared with just one in five (18%) agreeing.  
  • Three-quarters of people globally (75%) say they would be comfortable with having a female boss. Only 17% say they would feel uncomfortable. Men are more likely to say that they would feel uncomfortable if their boss was female (20%), compared to women (14%). Unease with having a female boss rises among people in India (35%) South Korea (31%) and Malaysia (28%). People in Serbia (4%), the Netherlands (8%) and France (10%) are least likely to say they would feel uncomfortable. In Great Britain, 14% agree that having a female boss would make them uncomfortable, while four in five (80%) disagree.

Sexual harassment, sexual violence, physical violence, equal pay and domestic abuse are still seen as the top issues facing women across the globe 

  • Three in ten people globally (30%) pick out sexual harassment as the top issue facing women, which is in line with findings in 2018 when the figure was 32%. Respondents in Peru (54%), Turkey (51%), Argentina (45%), Malaysia (40%) and Mexico (40%) are significantly more likely to see sexual harassment as the top issue facing women than average. Sexual violence is seen as the top issue in Colombia (45%), Spain (44%) and South Africa (41%), while the top issue for Peru it is physical violence (55%). 
  • Equal pay is highlighted as much more of an issue in many European countries such as Belgium (36%), Hungary (33%), Netherlands (33%), Germany (32%), Sweden (31%) and Great Britain (29%), as well as among people from Chile (38%) and Canada (35%).
  • Respondents in Serbia (41%), Australia (40%), Poland (24%) and Russia (21%) see domestic abuse as the top issue, whilst people in South Korea (31%) and Japan (26%) feel that balancing work and caring responsibilities is the top issue that women are facing in the country.

Equal pay and tougher laws to end violence and harassment against women seen as the key to helping achieve gender equality. While strides are being made to end gender discrimination in education, people are least confident about progress in government and politics

  • Globally, the top actions that people feel would help to achieve equality between men and women are employers paying women the same as men for the same work (36%) and tougher laws to prevent violence and harassment against women (35%). The majority (69% and 68%) believe these respective actions will have a positive impact in achieving equality. 
  • Equal pay is much more likely to be picked out in Belgium (53%), Hungary and the Netherlands (both 49%). In Britain two in five select this (40%). Tougher laws to end violence and harassment are more likely to be picked out in Peru (56%), Colombia (54%) and Serbia (51%). 
  • Close to half (48%) believe that the area of life where not enough is being done to achieve equal rights between men and women is looking after children and the home. People in Serbia (73%), Spain (63%) and Peru (60%) are most likely to say this.
  • Education is the area where people think equality will be achieved first - close to half (47%) are confident that discrimination against women in education will have ended in 20 years’ time. But, people are much less confident about this happening in government and politics (37%) and those most pessimistic are in Hungary (65%), Chile (54%) and Japan (53%). In Great Britain, 34% are confident while 39% are not confident. These findings chime with the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap report which highlights that the political empowerment gender gap remains the widest and that progress has stalled or even reversed in some countries.

Most believe that gender equality can only be achieved if men take actions to support women’s rights, but views are split on whether men are being expected to do too much

  • Two-thirds (65%) believe that women won’t achieve equality in their country unless men take actions to support women’s rights too. A quarter (25%) disagree. Three in five men (61%) agree compared to seven in ten women (69%). 
  • Agreement with this statement rises to 74% in Chile, 76% in Peru, 76% in Serbia, but is lowest in Italy (53%), Poland (51%) and Japan (47%). Brits are in line with the global average on this measure with 65% agreeing.
  • However, people are split on whether too much is being expected of men to help the fight for equality. Overall, 43% agree that men are being expected to do too much to support women’s equality in their country compared with 46% who disagree. Half of all men (50%) agree that too much is expected of them to support women's equality, while a third (36%) of women do. 
  • Agreement is highest in many Latin American and Asian countries (Colombia and Mexico at 61% Peru 62%, and Malaysia and India 60%). Those least likely to agree are in France (21%), Belgium (22%) and Netherlands (24%). Almost a third in Great Britain agree that too much is being expected of men to support women's equality (29%), while the majority (57%) disagree.

Technical details

Field dates were 21 December 2018 - 4 January 2019

16 of the 27 countries surveyed online generate nationally representative samples in their countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and United States).

Brazil, Chile, Colombia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Serbia, South Africa and Turkey produce a national sample that is more urban & educated, and with higher incomes than their fellow citizens. We refer to these respondents as “Upper Deck Consumer Citizens”. They are not nationally representative of their country.

Approximately 1000+ individuals participated on a country by country basis via the Ipsos Online Panel with the exception of Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Hungary, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and Turkey, where each have a sample approximately 500+.

The author(s)

  • Kully Kaur-Ballagan Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
  • Suzanne Hall Ipsos Public Affairs, UK

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