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Society’s views on gender evolving; future is FeMale: Havas report

While debates on gender have been hot topics in 2017, especially in the tech industry, a new report by the Havas Group indicates that a nongendered future may be in the cards when gender is regarded as no more important than a person’s height, handedness, or hair color. The 32-nation survey titled ‘The Future is FeMale’, commissioned by the Havas Group and fielded by Market Probe International, sought to measure how far gender equality has come in an era when women in most parts of the world are able to do things once considered the province of men, including work outside the home, earn high school and college degrees, vote, own property, and hold elected office.

The survey found that people don’t have to identify as a feminist to support women’s equality. Less than a third of women (31 per cent) and 17 per cent of men surveyed consider themselves feminists, but it’s clear that the basic tenets of the women’s movement are now deeply ingrained in the public mindset. Strong majorities of those surveyed (84 per cent of men and 91 per cent of women) agree that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same. Only 5 per cent of men and 3 per cent of women disagreed. Moreover, both sexes were more likely to agree than disagree that the world would be a better place if more women were in positions of power. And a majority (52 per cent of men and 64 per cent of women) said they would like to see more women hold executive positions.

While we have still not achieved true gender equality in the workplace and political sphere (nearly half our sample agreed that women today have rights but no real power), but things have progressed more rapidly on the home front, where men not too long ago were automatically considered ‘head of household’. Less than a third of men surveyed (31 per cent) and a quarter of women (24 per cent) agreed that male-female relationships work better when the man is the dominant partner and just 30 per cent of men and 26 per cent of women believe relationships work better when the male earns more than his female partner.

“The media is raging with arguments about pay gaps, harassment, sexploitation, rape culture, mansplaining, and manspreading, not to mention gender fluidity, transgender equality, gender-neutral language, and the place of women in Silicon Valley. Even so, to echo the late Martin Luther King, Jr., we see a trend toward a future in which people will be judged by the content of their character rather than the makeup of their chromosomes. And that future may not be terribly far off,” says Marianne Hurstel, Global Chief Strategy Officer.

 

However, not everyone is on board the equality train. A third of men and nearly a quarter of women (23 per cent) believe feminism had done more harm than good. This attitude is more prevalent in emerging (33 per cent) than developed (24 per cent) markets. Further, nearly a quarter of both men and women believe that women’s emancipation has caused men to fall behind. This may explain why four in 10 women (and 28 per cent of men) say they’re seeing a lot more anger expressed toward women these days. This anger may be especially prevalent online: Agreement on this statement came from 35 per cent of those who use social media, compared with 27 per cent of those who don’t.

It is also interesting to note that gender distinctions are now fading. “Remember when boys were made of “snips and snails and puppy dogs’ tails” and girls were made of “sugar and spice and everything nice”? We may want to rethink that recipe. We gave our respondents a list of 25 important traits and attributes, and asked whether each one applies more to men, to women, or to the two sexes equally. Though there were some distinctions (both sexes agreed that men are more mechanical and women are more nurturing and sensitive), for the most part we saw a real overlap between the genders. ”

Seventy-five per cent of both men and women believe the two sexes are equally valuable to society and 69 per cent of men and 71 per cent of women believe the sexes are equally smart. The report also found that 64 per cent of men and 68 per cent of women believe the sexes are equally intellectual and 61 per cent believe the sexes are equally hardworking.

Another finding from the report showed that half the global sample (55 per cent of men and 54 per cent of women) believe parenting comes more naturally to women than to men. That’s pretty astonishing given the long-held belief that women’s primary function was caring for children and home.

Many signs point to an agendered future, the survey indicates. The very way we think about gender is changing. A majority of women (52 per cent) and 44 per cent of men surveyed agreed: “I do not believe in set genders; gender is fluid, and everyone can be what they feel they are.” And there is a clear push toward raising children in a nongendered way: 61 per cent of women and 46 per cent of men believe children should be raised in as gender neutral a way as possible so as to avoid rigid gender restrictions. (In comparison, 39 per cent of women and 54 per cent of men would prefer to see girls and boys raised with gender-specific clothing, toys, etc.) That attitude seems to apply to adults as well: In developed markets, barely half the sample (52 per cent) believe “a man should be masculine,” and just 48 per cent believe “a woman should be feminine.”

“The more men and women study, work, play, and socialize on equal terms in a world increasingly leveled by technology, the more we perceive—as our survey shows—how similar many of our qualities, interests, and goals are. And the more we recognise these commonalities, the more likely we will be to think that our gender is just one aspect of who we are,” added Ms Hurstel.

 

Shubhi Tandon

Shubhi Tandon is the Assistant Editor at Digital Market Asia. Fascinated by the evolving digital media industry, she has focussed on tracking developments in the Asia Pacific market since 2014.
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