On March 5, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released its new Gender Social Norms Index. The index measures how social beliefs in four areas: political empowerment, educational empowerment, economic empowerment and physical integrity, obstruct gender equality.
The Index contains data from 75 countries—covering 80 percent of the population—and found that close to 90 percent of men and women are biased against women. About half of men and women globally felt men make better political leaders and over 40 percent feel men make better business executives.
Gender bias in the Western Hemisphere
Out of the 75 countries studied for this report, 12 were from the Western Hemisphere—Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States and Uruguay. Overall, the Index shows that about 80.7 percent of men and women in the region had at least one bias against women. When broken down into the four areas, 65 percent of people held a bias against women on physical integrity, 42.8 percent bias against women on politics, 33.5 percent on the economy and 16.8 percent on education.
The countries with the highest bias against women were Haiti (with 98.9 percent bias), Ecuador (with 93.34 percent) and Colombia (with 91.4 bias against women). The countries with the lowest bias were Chile (74.4 percent), United States (57.31 percent) and Canada (51.53).
When comparing bias against women by gender, there wasn’t a disparity between women and men. In fact, the difference was less than three percentage points, with 79.47 percent of women having at least one bias against women and 81.99 of men being biased against women.
Of the seven countries—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, U.S., and Uruguay—that had data available for two waves, one from 2005 to 2009 and 2010 to 2014, four showed decreasing bias, while the other three saw worsening conditions. Of the countries that saw improvement, Chile saw the biggest drop with its citizens reporting a 89.71 percent bias in the first wave and 74.4 percent bias in the time period from 2010 to 2014. Mexico experienced the highest increase in bias going from 85.96 percent bias from 2005 to 2009, to 87.7 percent bias in the second wave. But even as some countries saw improvements overall, gender bias against women increased by gender. While Argentina experienced an overall improvement of 1.25 percent, gender bias against women by women increased from 71.05 percent in the period from 2005 to 2009 to 73.47 percent from 2010 to 2014. Other countries who improved, saw improvement from both men and women.
By adding concrete figures to an invisible problem, the Index provides the tools necessary to visualize the problem’s women face daily. Opinions like “University is more important for a man than for a woman,” or “men should have more right to a job than women,” contribute to the lack of female representation in politics or the business sector, and can help explain the intimidation some women in power feel when joining predominantly male careers.
But with the rise in feminist movements like #Metoo, #NiUnaMenos and #UnVioladorEntuCamino, conversations around women’s rights have ignited across the world, and work to openly discuss the pressing issue of gender-based violence and inclusivity in the workforce, among other public spaces. These conversations need to continue to end gender bias, and break the invisible barriers that continue to prevent women from achieving equality, better compensation and access to leadership roles.