Thursday, September 2, 2010

Equal Rights for Women? Survey Says: Yes, but ...


People around the world say they firmly support equal rights for men and women, but many still believe men should get preference when it comes to good jobs, higher education or even in some cases the simple right to work outside the home, according to a new survey of 22 nations.

The poll, conducted in April and May by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project in association with the International Herald Tribune, shows that in both developing countries and wealthy ones, there is a pronounced gap between a belief in the equality of the sexes and how that translates into reality.

In nations where equal rights are already mandated, women seem stymied by a lack of real progress, the poll found.

“Women in the United States and Europe are shouldering major responsibilities at home and at work simultaneously, and this makes for stress and a low quality of life,” said Prof. Herminia Ibarra, co-author of the 2010 Corporate Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum.

The opinions of the French, in particular, are emblematic of the uneven drive for equality of the sexes.

One hundred percent of French women and 99 percent of French men backed the idea of equal rights. Yet 75 percent also said that men there had a better life, by far the highest percentage in any of the countries in which polling took place.

Why do people in France, which provides generous state care for new mothers and toddlers, feel so far from having achieved gender equality?

“Because they are, at least in terms of economic participation,” said Professor Ibarra, who teaches organizational behavior at Insead, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France. “There are still very few women running large organizations, and business culture remains resolutely a boys’ club.”

Indeed, the United States and Germany reported an especially strong gap between the sexes on whether enough has been done to give women equality. Of those who believe in equal rights, many more American and German men believe their nations have made the right amount of changes for women, while many more women than men in those countries think more action is required.

“When you’re left out of the club, you know it,” said Prof. Jacqui True, an expert in gender relations and senior lecturer at the University of Auckland. “When you’re in the club, you don’t see what the problem is.”

Read the rest of this story here.

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