Almost 90 Percent of People Are Biased Against Women, Says UN Report

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL 03/08/2019:  Women take part in a march on Praça da Sé in São Paulo for International Women's Day. crist faga/Shutterstock

According to a new report from the United Nations (UN), the glass ceiling is far from smashed. The report found almost 90 percent of people – both men and women – hold some sort of bias against women.

The Gender Social Norms Index has gathered data from 75 countries, accounting for over 80 percent of the world’s population, looking at how women are affected by social attitudes to gender roles and equality. They found that 91 percent of men and 86 percent of women worldwide hold at least one clear bias against gender equality.

According to the findings, up to half of the world’s men and women believe that men make better political leaders, while over 40 percent think that men make better business executives. Close to 50 percent of men and women also said men had more right to a job than women, especially in times of economic hardship. 

Most shockingly, 28 percent of people think it’s justified for a man to beat his wife. 

While over a century of social resistance and hard work has helped to improve the lives of many women, the report shows that women and girls globally are still faced with a deluge of bias and prejudice in every respect of life, from education and work to politics and healthcare. In turn, these attitudes and beliefs have resulted in huge “power gaps” between men and women in economies, political systems, and corporations. In societies with stronger biases against women, there was a close link to greater inequality between genders.

“We have come a long way in recent decades to ensure that women have the same access to life’s basic needs as men. We have reached parity in primary school enrollment and reduced maternal mortality by 45 percent since the year 1990,” Pedro Conceição, head of UN Development Programme's (UNDP) Human Development Report Office, said in a statement.

“But gender gaps are still all too obvious in other areas, particularly those that challenge power relations and are most influential in actually achieving true equality. Today, the fight about gender equality is a story of bias and prejudices.”

There was a fair amount of variation from region to region around the world. Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, and Belgium had some of the highest Gender Inequality Index scores, while sub-Saharan African generally held some of the lowest scores. 

In terms of men’s attitude towards gender equality over the past 15 years, some of the biggest progress was seen in Chile, Australia, the US, and the Netherlands. However, the report says “most countries in the sample showed a backlash,” with men in Sweden, Germany, India, and Mexico showing the biggest increase in bias against women.

This report echos recent findings from the first global index on gender equality, which revealed none of the 129 countries looked at were set to achieve it by the 2030 goal, and a World Economic Forum report that showed gender equality in the workplace is still more than two centuries away.

In sum, progress towards gender equality has been made, but there's still a lot of work to do. 

“#MeToo, #NiUnaMenos, #TimesUp, #UnVioladorEnTuCamino. The women’s rights demonstrations we’re seeing across the world today, energized by young feminists, are signaling that new alternatives for a different world are needed,” added Raquel Lagunas, UNDP Gender Team Acting Director. 

“We must act now to break through the barrier of bias and prejudices if we want to see progress at the speed and scale needed to achieve gender equality and the vision laid out in the Beijing Declaration over two decades ago and the Sustainable Development Goals.”

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