‘Men more likely to support equality for women than women’

Men and women graphic


Men are more likely to support equality of opportunity for women than women, according to a survey of over 8,000 people commissioned by the Fawcett Society.

Fawcett’s biggest ever survey, carried out by Survation, found that overall men were more likely to support equality of opportunity for women than women themselves, with 86% of men wanting this for women in their lives, compared to 81% of women wanting it for themselves.

The survey shows that seven out of 10 men believe a more equal society between women and men would be better for the UK economy and more than a third (39%) of men surveyed believe it would be better for them personally. Only 7% of men think they would lose out if we had a more equal society. However, there is a discrepancy between younger men and older ones, with younger men being less likely to support it than older men – 78% of 18-34 year olds support equality, compared with 87% of over 55 year olds. Moreover, 69% of 18-34 year olds believe gender equality is good for the economy, compared to 77% of over 55 year olds and 20% of 25-34 year olds believe equality has gone too far, compared to 13% overall. On the other hand, younger men feel a greater urgency about more needing to be done: 37% of 18-34 year olds compared to 26% of over 55 year olds.

Despite showing a clear desire for equality, the ‘Sex Equality – State of the Nation’ report also reveals that there are still significant barriers to progress that need to be overcome.

The survey identified two major barriers to progress – firstly a small but powerful group of ‘barrier bosses’ responsible for recruitment decisions, and secondly the fact that most people believe that men at the top won’t voluntarily move over for women.

The poll included 1,422 people who are recruitment decision-makers and the responses from them reveal some cause for concern. This group, which includes women and men, is less likely to believe in equality of opportunity. Indeed this group is more than twice as likely (16%) as the overall population (7%) to be against equality of opportunity for the sexes and more likely to believe they would personally lose out if women and men were more equal. A quarter of this group believes that a more equal society would not be better for the economy, compared to just 13% UK wide. Some 14% believe they would lose out if men and women were more equal; that’s more than three and a half times the proportion of those not involved in recruitment (4%).

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive said: “We won’t achieve equality without engaging and persuading men. There is now an overwhelming majority who believe it would be better for the economy, for the women in
their lives and a significant number who also see it as better for themselves.

“We have never had a better opportunity to create a more equal society. But despite this
stubborn barriers remain.

“A significant minority of managers – the ‘barrier bosses’ – are holding us back. They are the ones with the power over recruitment and their decisions are likely to be informed by their attitudes to equality. There are many progressive employers who are working hard to drive change, but if they are wondering what is holding up progress in their organisation this may explain why.

“Whether it is conscious or unconscious bias, this is discrimination in action. These are the
people responsible for implementing equal opportunities policies yet 16% say they are opposed to the idea.

“This is bad for individual employers, because they are not recruiting or promoting the best
people, and bad for the economy as they are holding women back, failing to use their skills
and expertise.”

Significantly the survey also found that 6 in 10 people believe that men in top jobs won’t make room for women unless they have to, with 64% of women and over half (55%) of men stating this. Half (49%) of recruitment decision makers also shared this view.

“This is at the heart of it. Despite the fact that men are overwhelmingly pro-equality a majority of people clearly believe that when it comes to the crunch, men won’t move over unless they have to. This is why we need positive action and why quotas would make a difference,” says Smethers.

“The argument has been won. We all want a more equal society, but we also see that it won’t happen on its own. We have to make it happen.”

The Fawcett Society is calling for:
– Employers to use the opportunity of new equal pay regulations in 2016 requiring the publication of their gender pay gap to take a detailed look at gender equality in their workplace. That includes assessing women’s progression at every level of their business
– Unconscious bias training for managers
– Removal of employment tribunal fees which it says stop women bringing sex discrimination claims
– Time-limited use of quotas to get more women on boards, together with targets to see more women in executive positions
– A move to ‘flexibility by default’ ‘flexibility first’– requiring all jobs to be advertised
on a flexible basis unless there is a good business reason not to.

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