In theory, equality between men and women is no longer a subject of debate. Initiatives in favour of equality have multiplied in recent years, causing one generation after another to feel continuous progress. However, this does not mean that women take this progress for granted: one out of two women are afraid that the level of equality will decline in the coming years. Equality is fragile and the road to achieving it is fraught with pitfalls, the Covid-19 pandemic is one of the biggest of them.
Women have been hit hard by the health crisis, in many ways even more so than men. Because many women are care workers, they made up most of the front line in the face of the virus. Across all employment sectors, women were more exposed to losing their jobs than their male counterparts. Within the home, they were overstretched, especially when it was necessary to juggle telework, household chores and school at home. An overload so intense that 41% of women declared that the Covid-19 pandemic has transformed their home into a prison from which they could no longer escape.
The health crisis has made the issue of gender equality take a step backwards, so much so that the timeline for equality has been delayed by a full generation: equality is now 135,6 years away whereas it was 100 years away before the pandemic. A question then arises: how do we compensate for this loss in a more than unstable climate?
For this special study conducted for the International Day for Women’s Rights we surveyed 8,000 people, 600 women and 200 men aged 18+ on each of these ten markets: France, USA, China, UK, Brazil, UAE, KSA, Qatar, Spain, and India.
Among the key findings:
- Awaken the conscience
The #Metoo movement has undoubtedly shifted the culture all over the world. However, not everyone agrees that the movement has been beneficial, only 46% of men and 52% of women consider the #Metoo movement to have done more good than harm to society, a perception that is accompanied by a fear of backlash among women. The differences of opinion are significant from one country to another, but also within countries between generations. The French in particular show an opposition between Gen-Z and Boomers, the younger generation having welcomed the movement more than the older (45% Gen-Z vs. 27% Baby-boomers).
- Establish a new deal for the family
Being a woman today does not necessarily mean being a mother – 3 out of 4 women consider that motherhood is no longer a defining characteristic of a woman. However, circumstances for women become complicated when they become mothers, especially on the distribution of parental responsibility. To improve women’s quality of life, there are strong expectations for greater involvement of fathers with their children: 77% of women and 67% of men think that if men were fully playing their parental part, women wouldn’t have to choose between their career and their family.
- Empower women at work
Difficulty in combining professional life and parental life, corporate culture, gender stereotypes, and the glass ceiling are all obstacles that women encounter in their professional careers. However, today they are more confident and ready to assert themselves, 75% of women think they deserve their professional situation. At this time, we also see that almost as many women as men have already spontaneously asked for a salary increase (46% for women, 49% for men).
In the business world, we are seeing a shift in values that benefits women. The qualities sought after by the management teams of tomorrow are in line with those that we most often recognise in women: creativity is one of the top qualities we expect in the company of tomorrow, and 61% of men and 63% of women consider female managers to be more creative. Guaranteeing better gender-parity in the company also means, for 79% of women and 69% of women, the guarantee of better success for the company.
- Lead meaningful reforms for women
To achieve gender equality, Prosumers are aware of the need to implement concrete actions in all sectors.
1. At school: According to the Prosumers, the first step is to ensure that girls do not leave school before they complete their studies: for 74% of men and 82% of women, governments should carry on protecting girls from quitting school. A further step will be to guarantee free high school/studies for women, which seems like a good solution for 48% of men and 54% of women. A majority of Prosumers (70% male and 80% women) also think that government should encourage girls to study in the future sectors (tech, stem, etc.).
2. At work: Equal pay remains as the number one issue, 86% of men and 91% of women think that both genders should be paid the same. Within companies, actions must focus on the representation of women: 67% of women and 57% of men think that to achieve equality we should create gender quotas in executive committees.
3. In politics: Prosumers are ready to give power to women: 62% of men and 77% of women would like to see more women in political institutions. They are also convinced that women are better prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow, particularly on environmental aspects: 41% of men and 58% of women even feel that the planet would be in better conditions if women had been in charge.
4. In society: All expect brands to contribute to gender equality. 65% of men and 77% of women want women to be represented in leading positions in brand commercials. Men and women also are increasingly unyielding with brands on this issue: 57% of women and 51% of men say they will boycott brands from companies that don’t have strong commitments to gender equality.
In conclusion, despite the difficulties experienced by women during the crisis, they are more ready than ever to defend their rights and determined not to let egalitarian advances be rolled back. The march towards equality remains long, but this study shows that awareness of these issues is very real, and it must be accompanied by concrete actions: efforts not only at the individual level but also from private and public institutions. Referring to the small difference in responses between men and women, it’s a fight women seem to lead from the front, but that men are ready to support.