Gen Z, Millennials think women’s rights have gone too far

A surprising number of people in younger generations believe that women’s rights have gone too far, with a new survey revealing gender equality progress could be at risk of stalling.

New research conducted by Ipsos UK and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London found that over half of people in younger generations believe the push for equality is now negatively impacting men and that they are being expected to do “too much” to support progress.

The survey collated the responses from more than 22,500 people aged 16-74 across 32 countries, including approximately 1000 people from Australia.

A girl paints the female symbol on an adult woman's face during a International Women's Day demonstration in Barcelona
A girl paints the female symbol on an adult woman’s face during an International Women’s Day demonstration in Barcelona.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

According to the results, 52 percent of Gen Z and 53 percent of Millennials agree that “we have gone so far in promoting women’s equality that we are discriminating against men”.

This is compared to 46 percent of Gen X and 40 percent of Baby Boomers.

In fact, many of the questions showed that younger generations were less supportive of efforts to advance gender equality than Boomers.

For Australia, 51 percent strongly or somewhat agreed with the above statement, compared to 41 percent who disagreed, with 60 percent of those who agreed men.

When it came to the claim that things have “gone far enough” in giving women equal rights with men, 55 percent of Gen Z and 57 percent of Millennials agreed.

This is compared to 53 percent of Gen X and 47 percent Boomers.

There were more Australian’s who disagreed with this comment than agreed, but a higher percentage of men agreed over women.

Women take part in the international women's day demonstrations in Bogota, Colombia
Women take part in the international women’s day demonstrations in Bogota, Colombia.
Long Visual Press/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The majority of Gen Z, Millennial, and Gen X respondents also agreed that men are “expected to do too much to support equality”, with 55, 57, and 54 percent respectively.

However, less than half of Boomers agreed with this statement.

For Australia, 42 percent somewhat or strongly agreed and 46 percent somewhat or strongly disagreed. When breaking the results down further, it was revealed 50 percent of Australian men agreed with the statement, compared to just 36 percent of women.

The report noted that the results pointed to “warnings of a reaction to the movement for greater equality” and that “progress on gender equality remains at risk of stalling.”

“Compared with pre-Covid, more people think things have gone far enough, and more people think men are being asked to do too much,” the report notes.

“Half also believe that steps towards women’s equality are leading to discrimination against men, and more broadly there is slightly less confidence that life today is better for young men than it is for young women.”

In another surprise result, Gen Z and Millennials were the generations that most believed a father who stays home to look after his children is “less of a man”, with 30 percent of both groups agreeing with this statement.

This went down to 22 percent for Gen X and reduced even further to 14 percent for Boomers.

When we break that down to the Australian responses, 76 percent disagree, with more men (23 percent) agreeing with the statesmen than women (15 percent).

Former Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who is the chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London said that, despite the progress that has been made in recent decades, “high-profile examples of misogyny are still rife”.

“There are worrying signs from this research that such views are not only gaining ground among the public, but also deterring people from advocating for women’s rights,” she said.

“No one should be afraid to promote equality, and we need to do much better in supporting people to call out injustice wherever they see it.”

However, Ms. Gillard said it was also important to identify the positives where they are found, including that people are increasingly likely to identify as a feminist and believe there are things they can do to improve gender equality.

“Yet we mustn’t be complacent. That it’s younger generations who are most likely to say a man who stays home to look after his children is less of a man is a disturbing reminder there is still much more to do, and that future progress is not guaranteed,” she said.

While some of the responses from younger generations may be concerning, there are other aspects of gender equality that they are more open to than other generations.

For example, 45 percent of Gen Z and 44 percent of Millennials define themselves as a feminist, compared to 37 percent of Gen X and 35 percent of Baby Boomers.

Gen Z are also most likely to say that in the past year, they have spoken up when a friend or family member made a sexist comment, with 27 percent of people agreeing with this statement, compared to 16 percent of Boomers.

The majority, 68 percent, also say they have taken at least one action to promote gender equality in the past year, compared to 41 percent of Boomers.

Chief executive of Ipsos, UK and Ireland, Kelly Beaver MBE, said the research shows that significant gender equality progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go.

“There are signs that the public are starting to push back on this progress to date, which is potentially worrying, but it may also be a sign that real change is happening in society and change can often make people uncomfortable and resistant,” she said.

Ms Beaver hopes that over the coming years this discomfort will shift to acceptance of achieving gender equality, which is essential for progress.

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