New data shows gender biases remain entrenched worldwide

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Harare (New Ziana) -Almost nine out of ten men and women worldwide still hold biases against women with the situation not improving in the past decade, a recent study has shown.

The disturbing revelation is contained in the latest Gender Social Norms Index report which the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) launched on Monday, which reflects latest data from the World Values Survey.

According to the report, half of people worldwide still believe that men make better political leaders than women, more than 40 percent believe men make better business executives than women, while a staggering 25 percent of people believe it is justified for a man to beat his wife.

The report says these biases drive the hurdles that women face, which are manifested in the dismantling of women’s rights in many parts of the world with movements against gender equality gaining traction and, in some countries, a surge in human rights violations.

Biases are also reflected in the severe underrepresentation of women in leadership, where on average, the share of women as Heads of State or Heads of Government has remained around 10 percent since 1995 and in the labour market, women occupy less than a third of managerial positions.

The report also sheds light on the broken link between women’s progress in education and economic empowerment, as it states that in 59 countries where women are more skilled and educated than men, the average gender income gap remains a staggering 39 percent in favour of men.

“Social norms that impair women’s rights are also detrimental to society more broadly, dampening the expansion of human development. In fact, lack of progress on gender social norms is unfolding against a human development crisis: the global Human Development Index (HDI) declined in 2020 for the first time on record—and again the following year. Everyone stands to gain from ensuring freedom and agency for women,” said Pedro Conceição, head of UNDP’s Human Development Report Office.

The report emphasizes that governments have a crucial role in shifting gender social norms.

“An important place to start is recognizing the economic value of unpaid care work. This can be a very effective way of challenging gender norms around how care work is viewed. In countries with the highest levels of gender biases against women, it is estimated that women spend over six times as much time as men on unpaid care work,” said Raquel Lagunas, director of UNDP’s Gender Team.

Despite the continued prevalence of bias against women, the data shows that change can happen as an increase in the share of people with no bias in any indicator was evident in 27 of the 38 countries surveyed.

The authors of the report emphasize that to drive change towards greater gender equality, the focus needs to be on expanding human development through investment, insurance, and innovation.

This includes investing in laws and policy measures that promote women’s equality in political participation, scaling up insurance mechanisms, such as strengthening social protection and care systems, and encouraging innovative interventions that could be particularly effective in challenging harmful social norms, patriarchal attitudes, and gender stereotypes.

For example, combatting online hate speech and gender disinformation can help to shift pervasive gender norms towards greater acceptance and equality.

In addition, the report recommends directly addressing social norms through education to change people’s views, policies as well as enacting laws that recognize the rights of women.

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