UK: Ipsos MORI IWD study reveals women still have a long way to go, esp. in Govt & politics Print E-mail

 London ~ March 8 2019

A female prime minister doesn’t hide women’s raw deal in politics

By Kully Kaur-Ballagan

With a female prime minister at the helm and three of the major UK political parties being led by a female, you’d almost be forgiven for thinking that here, in 2019, our work on achieving gender equality is going great guns. However, a global Ipsos MORI study carried out for International Women’s Day reveals there is still a long way to go ­ and particularly when it comes to government and politics.

The study shows we still think it’s very much a man’s world out there; globally, over half (52 per cent) believe that there are more advantages to being a man in today’s society than a woman. Brits are pretty much in line with this average, with 49 per cent saying there are more advantages to being a man and just one in ten saying there are more advantages to being a woman. Fewer people across the world now say they would describe themselves as a feminist; 33 per cent compared with 37 per cent last year, suggesting that the term continues to carry fairly negative connotations. In Britain, 35 per cent say that they define themselves as a feminist, which is similar to last year’s 37 per cent.

However, there is some cause for optimism. Slightly more people globally believe the push for gender equality hasn’t gone far enough ­ more disagree than agree, by 49 per cent to 42 per cent respectively, that, when it comes to giving women equality, things have gone far enough, suggesting that the desire for gender equality is gaining wider traction. And Brits ­ along with the Japanese and Australians ­ lead the charge in thinking things haven’t gone far enough.

Indeed, British men are more “woke” than most. Sixty per cent of British men agree that women won’t achieve equality without their support. And while a significant minority (35 per cent) of British men feel they are being expected to do too much to support women’s equality, half disagree, which is at least better than the global picture where more men feel put upon.

In terms of where we think equality will be achieved, 47 per cent globally are confident that discrimination against women in education will have ended in 20 years’ time. However, people are much less confident about this happening in government and politics, at only 37 per cent. In Britain the picture is also concerning ­ only 34 per cent are confident that discrimination in government and politics will end in 20 years’ time and 43 per cent believe not enough is being done to tackle discrimination in this area.


The public is right to draw attention to the slow progress here; the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap report highlights that the political empowerment gender gap remains the widest (compared with others such as economic participation and educational attainment) and that progress has stalled or even reversed in some countries. The UK has actually improved a little, but 100 years after the first female MP entered parliament, only 32 per cent of our MPs are female and at this rate of progress, achieving a gender-balanced parliament will take about 50 more years.

It’s not really surprising that politics is lagging behind when you consider some of the obstacles that women face. A recent global study showed that a staggering four in five female parliamentarians have suffered some form of abuse or harassment in politics. Amnesty UK has highlighted the unprecedented abuse that Diane Abbott received on social media in the run up to the 2017 general election, to give just one example.


More recently, we’ve seen that many of the female MPs joining the Independent Group have suffered similar opprobrium. However, it’s not just when women enter parliament do they face discrimination ­ it starts way before then. A report by the Fawcett Society concluded that women still faced “multiple barriers to being selected as candidates simply because they are women”.

With discrimination still systemic in our political processes, it’s not surprising that people lack confidence that we’ll have gender parity. We shouldn’t be happy that our government and politics is seen as one of the worst spheres of life when it comes to gender equality ­ indeed, we should hold them to higher standards. However, until we address many fundamental issues, we won’t achieve a better balance.


Kully Kaur-Ballagan is research director at Ipsos MORI