Gender equality is one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. But a UN Development Program survey, 2023 Gender Social Norms Index, published this week revealed that bias against woman is similar to what it was a decade ago, and gender equality is stagnant.

The survey, which has been conducted since the 1980s and draws on data from 120 different countries, quantifies biases against women, capturing people’s attitudes on women’s roles along four key dimensions: Political, education, economic and physical integrity.

Some findings included that:

  • Almost 9 out of 10 men and women surveyed still hold fundamental biases against women.
  • Two out of five people think that men make better business executives.
  • Half of those surveyed still hold the belief that men make better political leaders than women.
  • A quarter of respondents believed it is justified for a man to beat his wife.
  • And a quarter of respondents have experienced intimate partner violence.

In an interview on ABC News on June 15, Professor Annesley shared, “I was really disappointed, but also not surprised by the survey. I think we always expect that progress is going to be made but what we often find is that we can change the rules, we can change policies, but actually it’s much slower for people’s attitudes or behaviours or values to change. Gendered biases, gendered views, are really deeply entrenched because of decades of us organising our societies or our polities or our business institutions in certain ways.”

Reflecting on why the survey reported no progress towards equality over the past decade, Prof. Annesley explained, “I think the other thing we need to keep in mind is that progress isn’t linear. So sometimes we see progress backtracking and that can happen if there’s a crisis or if there’s a conflict or if there’s kind of backtracking in democratic principles. And that’s what we’ve seen recently, for example with COVID or conflicts across the world.”

New Zealand has the lowest rates of gender bias – 27.39 per cent – followed by Sweden at 27.91 per cent. Prof. Annesley points to New Zealand’s female prime ministers and Sweden’s investment in gender equality through the welfare state as being reasons these countries fare well.

As for Australia. “Australia sits quite close to New Zealand and Sweden. The area where Australia scored a little bit worse was in the category of politics, and so that really gives us a sense that in Australia there’s still work that we can do to break down some of the biases that exist in politics. And to make sure that politics is inclusive and respectful and safe for women as well as men.”

You can watch the full interview here: