UNDP Gender Social Norms Index Finds Massive Bias Against Women
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The Gender Social Norms Index examines how social beliefs can obstruct gender equality in politics, education, economics/work, and physical integrity.

The Index reveals that nearly 90% of the world’s population—91% of men and 86% of women—hold some kind of bias against women.

The Index tracks change in bias at the country level over time, and finds that countries with higher social norms biases tend to have higher levels of gender inequality.

An analysis by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has found pervasive bias—by both men and women—against women worldwide. The Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI) examines how social beliefs can obstruct gender equality across four dimensions: politics, education, economics/work, and physical integrity. 

The GSNI was launched in a publication titled, ‘Tackling Social Norms: A game changer for gender inequalities.’ To cover the four dimensions of gender equality, the Index features survey data on seven indicators from 75 countries, and covers more than 80% of the world’s population.

Countries with higher social norms biases tend to have higher levels of gender inequality.

The Index reveals that nearly 90% of the world’s population—91% of men and 86% of women—hold some kind of bias against women. For example, approximately half of the population feels that men make better political leaders. This is reflected in parliaments worldwide, despite similar voting rates among men and women: only 24% of parliamentary seats worldwide are held by women, and only ten of 193 Member States have female heads of government.

More than a quarter of people (28%) think it is justified for a man to beat his wife, according to the data. However, the Index and recent events show that sentiments are changing. Raquel Lagunas, UNDP Gender Team, notes that women’s rights demonstrations across the world and the #MeToo movement have signaled that new norms and alternatives are needed, and people are energized to campaign for gender equality.

The GSNI uses data from multiple “waves” of the World Values Survey from 2005 to 2014. It follows two methods of aggregation: a “union approach” that measures the percentage of people with any bias across the seven indicators, and an “intersection approach” that measures the percentage of people with at least two biases across the indicators.

The data reveal shifts in countries’ shifts in bias over time. Progress in the share of men with no gender social norms bias, for example, was largest in Chile, Australia, the US, and the Netherlands. The data also show a negative change in the share of women with no gender social norms bias—indicating increasing bias in many countries, with Sweden and India representing the highest setbacks. On the whole, the GSNI finds that countries with higher social norms biases tend to have higher levels of gender inequality. Statistical tables containing data from the GSNI are available in a set of annexes to the report.

With 2020 marking the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+25) on women’s empowerment and gender equality, UNDP calls on world leaders to accelerate action to meet global gender goals. [Publication: Tackling Social Norms: A Game Changer for Gender Inequalities] [UNDP press release]

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