90% of global population are biased against women

United Nations analysis reveals that, despite decades of progress closing the equality gap between men and women, close to 90 percent of global population hold some sort of bias against women.

How big and thick is the Glass Ceiling?  New analysis suggests that it covers all aspects of women’s lives, including the household, and that it is constructed, not of glass, but of pervasive bias and prejudice against women held by both men and women worldwide.

These were the findings behind the new Gender Social Norms Index released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recently. This index measures how social beliefs obstruct gender equality in areas like politics, work, and education, and contains data from 75 countries, covering over 80 percent of the world’s population.

This new analysis reveals that, despite decades of progress closing the equality gap between men and women, close to 90 percent of men and women hold some sort of bias against women, providing new clues to the invisible barriers women face in achieving equality, and a potential path forward to shattering the Glass Ceiling.

According to the index, about half of the world’s men and women feel that men make better political leaders, and over 40 percent feel that men make better business executives and that men have more right to a job when jobs are scarce. 28 percent think it is justified for a man to beat his wife.  

Information is also available on how bias is changing in around 30 countries.  It shows that while in some countries there have been improvements, in others, attitudes appear to have worsened in recent years, signaling that progress cannot be taken for granted. 

The Power Gap

This new analysis sheds light on the enormous “power gaps” still exist between men and women in our economies, our political systems, and our corporations despite real progress closing gender inequalities in basic areas of development like education and health; and the removal of legal barriers to political and economic participation. 

For example, while men and women vote at similar rates, only 24 percent of parliamentary seats worldwide are held by women and there are only 10 female heads of government out of a possible 193. Women in the labour market are paid less than men and are much less likely to be in senior positions: less than 6 percent of CEOs in S&P 500 companies are women.  And while women work more hours than men, this work is more likely to be unpaid care work. 

UNDP is calling on governments and institutions to use a new generation of policies to change these discriminatory beliefs and practices through education, and by raising awareness and changing incentives. For instance, by using taxes to incentivize fairly sharing child-care responsibilities, or by encouraging women and girls to enter traditionally male-dominated sectors such as the armed forces and information technology.

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