Global Trends 2020

The changing role of women?

In line with a broader shift towards nostalgia and tradition in the survey, there are signs that the move towards more liberal attitudes on the role of women in society may be slowing. Whilst the majority of people across the world agree that things would be better if more women held positions of responsibility in government and companies (57%, up from 53% in 2014) and most also disagree that women’s raison d’être is domestic (58%), we see a significant increase in agreement that “the role of women in society is to be good mothers and wives” in 12 of the 22 countries surveyed on this measure, with just five registering increased disagreement.

Turkey, where last year President Erdogan described women who “refuse maternity and give up housekeeping” as “lacking” and “half [a person] no matter how successful she is in the business world”, has seen an 11 percentage point increase in agreement with the statement that women’s role is to be good mothers and wives. Perhaps more surprisingly, Germany sees the next biggest shift – with 41% of respondents agreeing with this more traditional definition of what a woman should be, up from 32% in 2014.  Sweden and France follow close behind (both up 7 percentage points), although in all three cases it should be noted that a majority still disagree with this statement.

Men are more likely than women to think women’s role is to be wives and mothers (by 41% to 34%, on average), but there is an even greater divide by religious belief. Those with religious beliefs are almost twice as likely to side with the traditional view on gender roles than those who describe themselves as agnostic or atheist (by 42% to 24%).

Claire Emes
Senior Director, Ipsos Marketing | @IpsosMORI

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