Published 6 April 2023 in Surveys, Facts and figures
In partnership with University College London (UCL) and the University of Birmingham, Focus 2030 is conducting a research-action program to analyze the perceptions, attitudes, behaviors and perceptions of citizens on international solidarity issues in four countries : France, Germany, the United States and Great Britain.
Entitled Development Engagement Lab (DEL), this project aims to provide development actors (NGOs, foundations, think tanks, ministries, public institutions, international organizations) with data to enable them to better understand citizens’ expectations in order to implement their communication, mobilization and advocacy activities. The results presented below are based on a survey conducted by YouGov between February 20 and March 1, 2023 among a representative sample of the national populations of the four countries surveyed (France, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States), i.e., approximately 2,000 adults per country. Margin of error : ±2%.
Although slow, progress has been made in the last few decades in terms of gender equality throughout the world : a decrease in maternal mortality, an increase in the representation of women in political and economic decision-making bodies, reduction of the gap in school enrolment between girls and boys, and a better consideration of gender issues in the definition of official development assistance policies, in particular through an increase in the amounts allocated to women’s rights.
At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic, conflicts, climate change and the so-called "backlash" phenomena are hampering the progress made, with real consequences on the lives of women and girls. Throughout the world, inequalities between women and men remain a reality that SDG 5 seeks to remedy by 2030. With this deadline now halfway over, Focus 2030 has produced an Overview of the State of Women’s Rights in the World in 2023, which highlights the progress made so far but also the long way to go. Indeed, according to UN Women, 200 million women have undergone female genital mutilation, one in five women has suffered physical or sexual violence in her lifetime, or women represent only 13% of owners of agricultural land. This is why, in February 2023, as part of the Development Engagement Lab project, Focus 2030 wanted to measure the knowledge of French, German, British and American citizens regarding gender equality.
Has equality between women and men progressed over the last ten years ?
When people in the four countries surveyed are asked whether women and men are more equal today than they were ten years ago, all respondents recognize progress on equality, both at the household level in each of the four countries and in developing countries.
Germany has the highest proportion (70%) of respondents who believe that women and men are more equal than they were ten years ago. On the other hand, it is in France that this equality is least agreed upon (44%).
This optimism seems less obvious when it comes to the situation in developing countries. In the three European countries surveyed (France, Germany, Great Britain), the proportion of respondents who believe that women and men are more equal than they were ten years ago is much lower in developing countries than their perception of the situation in their own country.
What are the main barriers to gender equality ?
From a list of hypotheses that could explain why women are not treated like men in their own country, respondents were asked to select several possible explanations.
In the four countries surveyed, it is clear for all respondents that the two main reasons for the unequal treatment of women and men are, on the one hand, the weight of culture and history, and on the other hand, the fact that men resist the evolution towards more equality ; this is more apparent in the answers obtained in Great Britain (39%) than in France (28%).
The third reason given is practical, i.e., the lack of laws to guarantee equality between women and men. This hypothesis is particularly popular in France (35%) and not very popular in Great Britain (18%).
The low representation of women in politics is the fourth reason identified to explain gender inequalities in similar proportions in the four countries. On average, the influence of religion is perceived as the fifth explanation of gender inequality, except in Germany (15%).
The hypothesis that women and men are "fundamentally different" is not very popular in France (13%) or Germany (12%), and more popular in Great Britain (18%) or the United States (20%), as is the reference to the nature of things.
Access to education and training only comes in seventh place, a reason that is not particularly mentioned by respondents in Germany.
France (8%) had the lowest proportion of respondents who said that "women and men are treated the same," a proportion more than half as high as in Germany (21%), Great Britain (18%) and the United States (19%).
Many more French women (42%) than men (27%) say that a lack of laws is a major reason for gender inequality. They are also more likely than men (7 points difference) to identify men’s resistance to this change.
Using the same question, respondents were asked to identify reasons that might explain inequalities between women and men in developing countries .
"The weight of culture and history" is also the hypothesis most frequently used. Next comes the influence of religion, which is not unrelated to the weight of culture and history. Men’s resistance to change is identified in third place, again a series of three major reasons likely to explain cultural inertia in the evolution of gender equality.
The last reasons identified are related to configurable aspects, i.e. lack of laws, women’s representation in politics and access to education.
Regarding the reasons for gender inequality in developing countries, women’s and men’s responses are more homogeneous, although women are also more likely to recognize the influence of religions (+5 percentage points) and men’s resistance to change (+8 points).
Knowledge of issues that concern/affect women
In the four countries surveyed, the vast majority of respondents declare having heard of and being aware of all these issues that concern and affect women in similar proportions, with the exception of menstrual precariousness, which is clearly less known. In Germany, 48% of respondents say they have never heard of it, 38% in the United States, while this rate of ignorance drops to 14% in France and Great Britain. Americans also have the highest proportion of respondents who say they have not heard of at least four of these issues.
Among the socio-demographic discriminants that may vary according to these responses, higher levels of formal education are associated with greater knowledge (or awareness) of the following issues : menstrual precariousness, sexual violence in conflict, female genital mutilation, child marriage, or sexual harassment.
Men are less likely than women to report having heard about these issues.
Respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 are less likely than older respondents to report having heard about sexual harassment, abortion rights issues, or female genital mutilation.
Is the frequency of violence faced by women overreported or underreported ?
In France, women are more likely than men to consider that the frequency of discrimination they face is "largely underestimated" (a difference of 14 percentage points), and much less likely than men to consider that the frequency is "correctly evaluated" (a difference of 12 points).
On the other hand, men and women agree on an intermediate assessment, tending to consider that the frequency of such discrimination is (indeed) "rather underestimated".
Among the answers obtained in the four countries surveyed, the greatest number of respondents in France and Great Britain consider that the frequency of discrimination experienced by women is underestimated (65%), compared to the answers obtained in the United States (60%) or in Germany (57%).
A small proportion of respondents consider the frequency of such discrimination to be overestimated, while between 12% of respondents (in France and Germany) and 18% (Great Britain) do not know how to answer this question.
Women are much more likely to declare that the phenomenon of discrimination is largely underestimated, i.e. about twice the average of the men interviewed in all four countries.
This data comes from our survey conducted by the YouGov Institute and piloted by the University College London and University of Birmingham research team as part of the Development Engagement Lab project. Information and methodology available here.