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CAN'T WIN

UN study finds almost 90% of men and women are biased against women

Reuters/Brian Snyder
Just not likable.
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Reporter

The world is sexist. No country—not Iceland, not Denmark, none—has achieved gender parity, and women continue to face enormous struggles in large parts of the world to see their basic human rights recognized.

But does that mean everyone is sexist? Pretty much, yes.

A new United Nations report, which looks at gender inequality and attitudes towards women around the world, put a staggering number to it: Nearly 90% of all people—that is, both men and women—are prejudiced against women.

The research checked biases around seven indicators by asking whether or not men make better political leaders; women and men have the same rights; university is more important for men than women; men should have more rights to a job than women; men make better business executives; physical violence by a partner is ever justified; and, finally, whether or not women should be granted full reproductive rights.

According to the findings, published today as part of the Gender Social Norms Index (pdf, p. 8), only 14% of women and 10% of men are free of bias against women. This is a data point that correlates with gender inequality, the study found: Where biases against women are stronger, inequality between genders tends to be higher.

Even more worrying, the UN found that while it may seem as if the situation is improving—given all the recent discussion around gender equality—things are actually getting worse. According to the index, the percentage of men with some bias against women grew from 89.4% between 2004 and 2009 to 89.9% between 2010 and 2014. Women with some bias against women also increased, the study found, rising from 83.4% to 84.6% in the same period.

Women’s attitudes towards women have worsened the most among people who hold moderate to intense gender biases. The percentage of women in this category grew three percentage points between 2004-2009 and 2010-2014, from 56.6% to 59.7%. The share of men harboring moderate to intense gender bias, meanwhile, grew from 70% to 70.8% in the same period.

In Sweden, bias against women has grown the most. India saw the second-largest growth in prejudice against women, but much more so among women than men.

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