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Nearly everyone is biased against women, U.N. research finds

by Ellen Wulfhorst | @EJWulfhorst | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 5 March 2020 20:36 GMT

Pedestrians walk in Princes Street in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

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Prejudice against women includes thinking that university education is more important for men or that they deserve jobs more

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, March 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Nine in 10 people are prejudiced against women, such as thinking university education is more important for men or that men deserve jobs more if work is scarce, the United Nations said on Thursday.

More than a quarter of men and women also think it is justified for a husband to beat his wife, found the Gender Social Norms Index by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), designed to measure how social beliefs obstruct gender equality.

"Today the fight about gender equality is a story of bias and prejudices," Pedro Conceicao, head of UNDP's Human Development Report Office, said in a statement ahead of International Women's Day on Sunday.

Using data from more than 80% of the global population, the index found some progress, including an increase in girls enrolled in primary school and a drop in maternal deaths, but also deeply ingrained prejudices.

It said 91% of men and 86% of women held at least one clear bias, such as thinking men make better political leaders or better business executives.

Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, said tackling such biases was the next goal for equality advocates.

"The work that has been so effective in ensuring an end to gaps in health or education must now evolve to address something far more challenging: a deeply ingrained bias – among both men and women - against genuine equality," he said in a statement.

The report was released ahead of Monday's meeting of the U.N.'s Commission on the Status of Women, which has been shortened to one day due to the spread of coronavirus.

Deeply-held biases could be addressed through education, raised awareness and incentives such as tax structures that encourage equally shared childcare or by encouraging women to enter male-dominated job sectors, the UNDP said.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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