Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI): 90% Of People Are Biased Against Women

According to the first gender social norm index, released by the UN, almost 90% of people are biased against women. The index highlights the “shocking” extent of the global backlash towards gender equality. The substantive content in this report is based on research for the 2019 Human Development Report.

The index, based on the data gathered from 75 countries, says that despite progress in closing the equality gap, 91% of men and 86% of women hold at least one bias against women in relation to politics, economics, education, violence or reproductive rights.

Key Findings
  • Globally, close to 50% of men said they had more right to a job than women. Almost a third of respondents thought it was acceptable for men to hit their partners.
  • Zimbabwe had the highest amount of bias with only 0.27% of people reporting no gender bias at all. At the other end of the scale was Andorra where 72% of people reported no bias.
  • About half of the world’s men and women feel that men make better political leaders.
  • The number of female heads of government is lower today than five years ago with only 10 women in such positions in 193 countries, down from 15 in 2014.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean had the highest share of seats in parliament held by women with 31%. South Asian countries had the lowest percentage at just 17%.
  • 24% of parliamentary seats worldwide are held by women, and there are only 10 female heads of government out of a possible 193.
  • Less than 6% of CEOs in S&P 500 companies are women; while women work more hours than men, this work is more likely to be unpaid care work.
  • Women are paid less than men and are much less likely to be in senior positions. Globally, 40% of people thought men made better business executives.
Gender Social Norm Index: UPSC Mains Study Material
The world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030.

This is the time for a reality check. The commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+25) provides an opportunity to reassess the path to gender equality and adjust actions to close gender gaps.

The world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030. The Human Development Report’s Gender Inequality Index (GII)—a measure of women’s empowerment in health, education and economic status—shows that overall progress in gender inequality has been slowing in recent years.

For instance, based on current trends, it would take 257 years to close the gender gap in economic opportunity.

The number of female heads of government is lower today than five years ago, with only 10 women in such positions among 193 countries (down from 15 in 2014).

Beyond what is measured, there are unaccounted burdens behind the achievements:
  • the double shift at home,
  • the harassment in public transportation,
  • the discrimination in workplaces,
  • the multiple hidden constraints that women face
New social movements are emerging all around the world

Different forms of demonstration—including online campaigns, women marches and street performances—demand new ways of looking at gender equality and women’s empowerment. The #MeToo movement gives voice to many silence breakers, uncovering abuse and vulnerability. In India the #IWillGoOut movement demands equal rights for women in public spaces.

In Latin America the #NiUnaMenos movement sheds light on femicides and violence against women from Argentina to Mexico.

A movement born in Chile created a hymn named “a rapist in your way,” shouted in unison by thousands of women across the world (367 times in 52 countries and on every continent except Antarctica) demanding that society stop blaming the victims of rape.

  • Why is progress towards some aspects of gender equality getting slower and more difficult?
  • Are there hidden dimensions of gender inequality?

To explore these questions, the 2019 Human Development Report argues that progress towards gender equality is confronting moving targets and inequality traps, with disadvantaged groups catching up with basic achievements, but trailing in more empowering enhanced achievements. One example: In the 50 countries where adult women are more educated than men, they still receive on average 39 percent less income than men—despite devoting more time to work.

Social norms are central to the understanding of these dynamics.

For example, societies often tell their girls that they can become anything they want and are capable of, while investing in their education. But the same societies tend to block their access to power positions without giving them a fair chance.

Globally almost 50 percent of people say they think men make better political leaders, while more than 40 percent feel that men make better business executives—a social judgement, just for being a woman, an invisible barrier and an affront to fairness and real meritocracy.

No country has reached low inequality in human development without reducing the loss coming from gender inequality.

Investing in women’s equality and lifting both their living standards and their empowerment are thus central to the human development agenda and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Not only are 45 targets and 54 specific indicators of the SDG framework directly linked to gender, the effects of these inequalities are linked to all dimensions of development.

This implies that investment in gender equality has a catalytic effect on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

On the positive side women are catching up in basic areas of development.

Legal barriers to gender equality have been removed in most countries: Women can vote and be elected, -they have access to education, and they can increasingly participate in the economy without formal restrictions. But progress has been uneven as women move away from basic areas into enhanced ones, where gaps tend to be wider.

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