Bias still seems entrenched in some sectors of the HR world, according to a new survey...read more
A new study by King’s College London and Ipsos UK shows attitudes to gender equality are slipping backwards in some respects, with the young more likely to think things have gone too far in favour of women than the old.
People in Britain are increasingly afraid of promoting women’s rights for fear of reprisals, according to a new survey which highlights a backlash effect when it comes to some areas of gender equality.
The 32-country study by Ipsos UK and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London finds the share of the British public who say they are scared to speak out and advocate for the equal rights of women because of what might happen to them has doubled since 2017, rising from 14% to 29%. The majority, though, continue to say this does not apply to them (71%).
The study says this is in line with the other countries it looked at. It found that younger generations in Britain tend to be most fearful, with Gen Z (38%) around twice as likely as Baby Boomers (19%) to feel this way.
It finds that 38% now agree that when it comes to giving women equal rights with men, things have gone far enough – up from 25% in 2018. Moreover, 38% feel that men are being expected to do too much to support equality, an increase on the 29% who felt this way in 2019. And the share of the British public who say that a man who stays home to look after his children is less of a man has risen slightly, from 13% in 2019 to 19% today, with men (23%) more likely than women (14%) to feel this way.
A large minority of the British public – two in five (43%) people – say we have gone so far in promoting women’s equality that we are discriminating against men. A majority of men (53%) agree with this view, as well as a third of women (33%).
However, the picture in Britain is less negative than in many of the other countries studied. Out of 32 countries, only three – Poland (26%), Japan (21%) and Portugal (17%) – are less likely than Britain (38%) to feel giving women equality with men has gone far enough. And the share of the British public (38%) who think men are being expected to do too much to support equality is on a par with the share in the US (36%), which is least likely to agree with this view. Britons are also comparatively unlikely to say they’ve heard a friend or family member make a sexist comment about a woman in the past year. One in five (18%) report hearing such a comment, with only people in South Korea (14%) and Japan (6%) less likely to report the same.
Moreover, other trends are more positive, with 47% of Britons now thinking equality between men and women will be achieved within their lifetime, compared with 40% in 2018, and a majority of 51% agreeing there are actions they can take to help promote equality between men and women – a slight rise from 46% five years ago.
Interestingly, younger generations are not always the most progressive on gender equality. Across the 32 countries studied, Gen Z (30%) and Millennials (30%) are twice as likely as Baby Boomers (14%) to say that a man who stays home to look after his children is less of a man, with a similar pattern seen in Britain. Moreover, majorities of Gen Z (52%) and Millennials (53%) say we have gone so far in promoting women’s equality that we are discriminating against men – greater than the share of Baby Boomers (40%) and Gen X (46%) who say the same.
And Baby Boomers – the oldest cohort surveyed – are in fact the least likely to agree that when it comes to giving women equal rights with men, things have gone far enough in their country (44%, versus 54% of Gen Z) and to agree that men are being expected to do too much to support equality (47%, versus 55% of Gen Z). In Britain, we see the latter but not the former.
Yet younger generations are more open about other aspects of gender equality. For example, Gen Z (45%) and Millennials (44%) are more likely than Gen X (37%) and Baby Boomers (35%) to say they define themselves as a feminist. A similar divide is found in Britain.
And Gen Z stand out as most likely to say that in the past year they have spoken up when a friend or family member made a sexist comment (27%, versus 16% of Baby Boomers), a pattern also seen in Britain.
Gen Z are also most likely to say they’ve confronted someone who was sexually harassing a woman (17%, versus 7% of Baby Boomers) – though they are also more likely to have been in these situations in the first place.
Overall, across the 32 countries surveyed, 68% of Gen Z say they have taken at least one action to promote gender equality in the past year, compared with 41% of Baby Boomers.
Julia Gillard, chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, said: “Despite the progress we’ve made in recent decades, high-profile examples of misogyny are still rife, particularly online, and there are worrying signs from this research that such views are not only gaining ground among the public, but also deterring people from advocating for women’s rights. No one should be afraid to promote equality, and we need to do much better in supporting people to call out injustice wherever they see it.
“But we should also emphasise the positives where we find them, including that people are increasingly likely to identify as a feminist and to recognise there are things they can do to improve gender equality. Yet we mustn’t be complacent. That it’s younger generations who are most likely to say a man who stays home to look after his children is less of a man is a disturbing reminder there is still much more to do, and that future progress is not guaranteed.”