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Women’s equality has gone too far, say half of Britons

Nearly one in two Britons surveyed felt that 'when it comes to giving women equal rights with men, things have gone far enough in my country'
Nearly one in two Britons surveyed felt that 'when it comes to giving women equal rights with men, things have gone far enough in my country' - Peter Dazeley/The Image Bank RF

About half of Britons believe that society has gone too far in promoting women’s equality and that men are now discriminated against, a survey suggests.

According to the results of the survey, nearly one in two (47 per cent) agreed with the statement: “When it comes to giving women equal rights with men, things have gone far enough in my country.”

This marks an increase on the 38 per cent who said the same last year, and a rise in the proportion who felt this way as recently as 2019 (29 per cent).

A total of 47 per cent also agreed with the statement: “We have gone so far in promoting women’s equality that we are discriminating against men.”

The research is being published as part of a global study carried out in 31 countries by the polling company, Ipsos, in collaboration with the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London for International Women’s Day, on 8 March.

Responding to the data, Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “We have a gender pay gap that’s closing at a glacial pace, there are fewer than 10 women leading FTSE 100 companies, half of women will experience sexual harassment at work, and online abuse and misogyny is rife.

“It doesn’t feel like a golden era of equality to me. Yes, we’ve made progress, thanks to the incredible and relentless work of generations of women. Inevitably where there is progress there is pushback but it’s abundantly clear that there is much more to be done and this data shows the majority of women agree.”

The survey asked 24,269 adults a series of questions in a range of countries around the world. More than 1,000 of those surveyed were Britons.

The report concluded that “progress towards gender equality is slow”. Across a 31-country average, more than half of people (54 per cent) believe that when it comes to giving women equal rights things have gone “far enough” in their country.

For those who believe that society has gone too far in promoting women’s equality at the expense of men, 59 per cent of men agree with the statement, compared with 35 per cent of women.

Sixty-six per cent of Britons agreed that women will not achieve equality unless men take actions to support women’s rights too (including 65 per cent of men and 68 per cent of women). However, the term “feminist” remains challenging, with only two in five (43 per cent) identifying with the phrase – an increase of eight percentage points since 2019. This rises to 49 per cent among women.

Dr Charlotte Proudman, founder of Right to Equality, said that 'over 60 per cent of women suffer sexual harassment'
Dr Charlotte Proudman, founder of Right to Equality, said that 'over 60 per cent of women suffer sexual harassment' - Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock

Responding to the figures, Dr Charlotte Proudman, a barrister and founder of Right to Equality, said: “How can anyone possibly say gender equality has gone too far when one in four women are raped or sexually assaulted, over 60 per cent of women suffer sexual harassment, and every week two women are killed by men?

“We have yet to reach a place where everyone, no matter their gender, can live without fear or oppression.”

Tory MP Sir John Hayes said the survey 'shows that good and bad people of both sexes prevail'
Tory MP Sir John Hayes said the survey 'shows that good and bad people of both sexes prevail' - TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

However, Sir John Hayes, chairman of the Common Sense Group of Tory MPs and a former security minister, said: “The myth that every man is to a, lesser or greater degree, a villain, and all women are invariably virtuous is perpetuated with such vigour that many have come to see it as fact.

“Fortunately for most of us, common sense and this survey also shows that good and bad people of both sexes prevail.”

‘Huge cause for concern’

Professor Rosie Campbell, director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, said: “That virtually half the British population think efforts to promote women’s equality have gone far enough is a huge cause for concern – particularly given the trend is going in the wrong direction, with the public seemingly becoming more, rather than less, sceptical of the need to push for further progress.”

Kelly Beaver, chief executive of Ipsos UK and Ireland, said: “The findings of our research serve as a salutary reminder that the concept of gender equality in the workplace and its impact on our wider society is more complex than we sometimes think.”