More Than Half of British Women Have Been Victims of Sexist Remarks or Behaviour

January 13, 2024
3 mins read

Tuesday, March 8, 2011.
Six in ten young women aged 15 to 30 have personally experienced sexist remarks or sexist behaviour, while nearly half of all women in the UK do not believe they are treated equally to men, according to a new poll published today on the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.   However despite this sense of social inequality and first-hand experiences of sexism, only one in five women described themselves as feminists.   The survey of UK adults, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of EQUALS – a coalition of agencies including ActionAid, Amnesty International, the Fawcett Society and Women’s Aid – revealed significant levels of inequality still exist between men and women in the UK.   Sixty per cent of young women surveyed have experienced sexist remarks and other forms of sexist behaviour whilst going about their daily lives, including being whistled at, having sexist comments directed at them, being touched inappropriately or being discriminated against because of gender. The survey revealed that British women experienced this across a variety of places with the most likely being at work, in a pub, bar or club, at school, college or university and in the street.   Despite the recent media outcry over sexist remarks about a female football official by Sky Sports commentators Andy Gray and Richard Keys, the survey revealed that attitudes around gender stereotypes remain prevalent with 50 per cent of men and women surveyed believing a man would do a better job than a woman at refereeing the World Cup final. Only three per cent thought a woman would be better, although 45 per cent thought men and women would do just as good a job as each other.   Amnesty International’s UK Director Kate Allen said: “These worrying results have thrown a light on the wide chasm that still exists between men and women, despite the enormous social and economic progress made in the last century.   “Unless attempts are made to change such attitudes in every section of society some women will always be treated as second-class citizens. Amnesty International has found from its work that it is these negative views which in the most extreme instances can lead to abusive behaviour towards women and a basic denial of women’s rights.”
Many of the findings revealed that a majority of UK adults – both men and women – aspire to greater equality. However, despite the current division of labour in the workplace and at home, on the whole, women are seen as homemakers and men as the breadwinners.

57 per cent of people said women currently have more responsibility than men for child care. However 81 per cent believed that men and women should share responsibility equally.
Only two per cent of people said women currently have more responsibility than men for earning money for their family.  Whilst 72 per cent believed that ideally responsibility should be shared equally, only 51 per cent said that this responsibility is currently shared equally.
64 per cent of people said that currently women have more responsibility than men for keeping the home clean but 75 per cent believe responsibility for this household activity should be shared equally.
Only four per cent of people thought women should have responsibility for putting the bins out, with 30 per cent thinking men should shoulder the responsibility, but 65 per cent thinking it should be shared equally.
  With women still shouldering a good deal of responsibility for managing the home and looking after the family, it is hardly surprising that the two greatest challenges facing women in Britain today were thought to be balancing family and work (58 per cent). The second biggest challenge was being judged on their appearance rather than what they do (22 per cent). In contrast the two greatest challenges thought to be facing women in developing countries were access to education (41per cent) and access to health services (31 per cent).   ActionAid Director Sue Bishop said: “We commissioned this research to investigate whether the perception of an equal society is borne out by people’s actual experiences. We can see the stark differences between how people think things should be and what actually happens in reality. We know that women across the world are struggling to achieve their rights and we want women in the UK to join forces with women in developing countries to fight for a more equal world. After all if we are not equal everywhere we are not equal anywhere.”   Other findings included:

Only three per cent of people thought a man would do a better job at delivering a baby in hospital while 53 per cent of people thought a woman would do a better job. 43 per cent thought they would be as good as each other.
Similarly three per cent of people thought a man would be a better primary school teacher than a woman while one in three (33 per cent) considered a woman would do a better job. 63 per cent thought they would be as good as each other.
43 per cent of UK adults thought a man would be a better plumber than a woman with only two per cent thinking a woman would do a better job. Just over half thought men and women would do as good a job as each other.
  Esme Peach, Coordinator of the EQUALS campaign, said: “Whilst we’ve come a long way in terms of equality between the sexes, gender-based stereotypes and assumptions still shape our daily lives. In 2011, we should be moving towards a society where a man’s role as a parent is valued just as much as a woman’s role as the breadwinner, and where men working as primary school teachers, or women working as plumbers, are commonplace.”

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