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UN Report Shows 9 out of 10 Still Hold Persistent Biases Against Women

UN Report

New York, NY, U.S.A. - Headquarters of the United Nations. Image credit/AdobeStock Images

Posted: June 20, 2023 at 4:53 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

A U.N. report released Monday, June 12th uncovered that nearly nine out of ten of the world’s population still harbor fundamental gender biases against women.

This report, known as the Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI) report presents the most recent data from the World Values Survey. Initiated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this GSNI report surveyed the views of 80 countries and territories, reflecting 85% of the world population.

The UN report found that half of the global population holds the view that men are more effective political leaders, while more than 40% think men make better business executives. Additionally, one in four believe it is justifiable for a man to beat his wife.

Biased gender social norms, defined by the U.N. report as “the undervaluation of women’s capabilities and rights in society,” limit women’s opportunities by restricting and regulating female behavior, acting as an obstacle to gender equality.

The UNDP press release states that the report collects people’s beliefs across four dimensions: political, educational, economic, and physical integrity. The report found gender biases to be present in both developed and underdeveloped countries. Moreover, these beliefs appear to occur across income levels, locations, and cultures.


Furthermore, these biases are reflected in the lack of representation of women in leadership roles. The percentage of women who have held positions as heads of government or heads of state has steadily remained around 10% on average since 1995. These biases are reflected similarly in the workplace – although to a lesser degree – where women hold less than a third of managerial positions.

These biases tie over in the economic realm as well in terms of pay discrepancies. Even in countries where women hold more education than their male counterparts, the average income gap persists at 39% in favor of men, the report finds.

Many of these figures remain unaltered from the previous GSNI report released in 2020, which drew its results from data collected from 2005 to 2014.

“My expectation was that we would see some progress,” said Pedro Conceição, head of UNDP’s human development report office, to The Guardian, “because nine out of every ten, I mean, how can it get any worse?”

It was a period in which we saw “the #MeToo movement and a lot of visibility to the very shocking ways in which these bias norms affect women.”

Conceição added the first time they released this report he was shocked by the magnitude of gender biases, “this time around I was shocked with the lack of progress.”


This lack of progress in changing beliefs surrounding gender biases co-occurs with a global backlash against women’s rights arising in recent years along with an alarming rollback of gender violence protections.

Women’s rights have been increasingly infringed in Afghanistan where the Taliban has denied women access to schooling. In South Korea, recently elected South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol plans to abolish South Korea’s gender equality ministry. Similar sentiments have occurred in China, where feminists have been silenced and the government has issued rigid censorship policies on feminist terms and content that “incites gender conflict.”

Concurrently, the U.S. has experienced a notable reversion in reproductive rights as the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that had formerly federally protected abortion rights for women for nearly half a century. This has occurred despite strong support for access to legal abortion, as found by a recent Gallup survey revealing a record 69% believe abortion should generally be legal in the first three months of pregnancy.


In addressing these biases, the UN report emphasizes the “crucial role” of government in shifting gender social norms. Examples cited include parental leave policies which can alter perceptions about care responsibilities.

“An important place to start is recognizing the economic value of unpaid care work,” said the Director of UNDP’s Gender Team, Raquel Lagunas. “This can be a very effective way of challenging gender norms around how care work is viewed. In countries with the highest levels of gender biases against women, it is estimated that women spend over six times as much time as men on unpaid care work.”

The report’s authors recommend more investment in laws and policies that promote women’s equality in political involvement, bolstering social protection systems and combating gender stereotypes and patriarchal attitudes through education. Action is also encouraged to address social norms head-on and advocate for more representation of women in political mechanisms and decision-making roles.

If left unaddressed, the U.N. warns it will take 140 years to attain equal representation of women in positions of power, while full gender equality could take 300 years to achieve.

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