Closing The Gap

Men are not the only ones biased against women, UN study finds

Student protesters take part in a demonstration marking International Women's Day in Barcelona on March 8, 2019.
Lluis Gene

Even amid the push for global gender equality, sexist attitudes continue to undermine progress. What's more, almost all of us are guilty of them.

new report from the United Nations found that close to 90% of people — both men and women — display prejudiced sentiments toward women.

The findings, published Friday in the UN's Gender Social Norms Index, surveyed respondents from 75 countries representing 80% of the global population to determine their stance on seven key measures of gender equality.

Those measures included whether or not men make better political leaders; whether women and men have the same rights to university and jobs; whether men make better business executives; and whether physical violence by a partner is ever acceptable. 

As many as 91% of men and 86% of women showed at least one clear bias against women, based on the seven key metrics. 

Half of the people surveyed said they thought men made better political leaders than women, while 40% felt men would be better business executives. Almost 30% said they thought it was acceptable for a man to beat his partner, according to the report. 

Unsurprisingly, the study found women were more inclined toward gender equality than men: 52% of men displayed two to four gender biases. However, the pervasiveness of sexual biases was apparent among both men and women.

More concerning still, according to the report, was that the problem appears to be worsening. The proportion of men with some bias against women grew from 89.4% between 2004 to 2009 to 89.9% between 2010 and 2014. That figure also rose among women over the same period — from 83.4% to 84.6%.

The UN said the findings show that while improvements have been made in some countries, others appear to have worsened, and "progress cannot be taken for granted."

The report was released ahead of International Women's Day, which will see people gather globally on Sunday (Mar. 7) to march for women's rights. The theme for this year, #EachforEqual, centers on global gender equality and the concept of collective individualism.

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