Progress is a slow and sluggish march. Sometimes, that march is painfully slow — as in, centuries upon centuries type slow. Millennia type slow. In the case of gender equality, specifically in Canada, change continues to be stalled, leaving antiquated gender roles and stereotypes to persist comfortably.
And new research measures out exactly how much.
Canada is often imagined to be a place of rapid and progressive social change, particularly on matters of gender inequality. In some ways, it is. But a survey by Plan International Canada (PIC) has found that seven out of 10 Canadian women have experienced some form of inequality in their lifetime — be it by discrimination or by stereotypes.
The survey in question was a poll of 1,452 Canadian women between the ages of 18 and 65. It asked them about which gender stereotypes they believed continued to exist in Canada.
Some of the findings might not shock you. For example: 81 per cent of those women still feel pressured to shoulder the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, and caring for children, while a comparable portion feel men are expected to take care of the more traditionally “male chores” — say, working on the car, or doing home repairs.
Watch: Could teaching chores in schools end gender inequality? Story continues below.
Nearly three in four (73 per cent) of the women said they believe they’re still expected to be wives and mothers, namely to allow men to fulfill their natural duties of being the family breadwinners. (Note our sarcasm.)
Some of the survey’s findings examine the gendered conditions of the workplace. 87 per cent of surveyed women said they think men who express strong opinions at work are generally perceived to be strong, confident leaders, while 82 per cent thought that if they offered the same outspokenness, they might be seen as aggressive or overbearing. (The survey didn’t account for race, which is often a determining factor when it comes to this perception.)
These silent attitudes aren’t harmless or insignificant. And they’re exacerbated among young women ages 18 to 35 — 77 per cent of whom say they’ve personally faced gender inequality, often due to their physical appearances.
“These Canadian results amplify the fact that gender-related norms, values and stereotypes still pose potent barriers to women achieving equal power,” Saadya Hamdani, director of gender equality at PIC, said in a news release.
“Globally, women spend significantly more time than men — often up to 10 times as much — on unpaid care, volunteer, and domestic work.”
In Canada, that discrepancy has been narrowing over the last few years, but it hasn’t closed completely. Women are still spending an average of 1.5 hours more per day than men on unpaid work activities, such as chores, household shopping, and child care.
“This uneven distribution of work has implications for job segregation and pay equity and it socializes the younger generation to believe gender roles are normal,” Hamdani said. “This is at the heart of gender inequality; holding back women, families, communities, countries, and the world.”
There is, of course, nothing natural about gender roles. The point is precisely that they’ve been invented — a set of ideas, written and unwritten, about how we should think and feel and act, totally based on our genders.
And as it turns out, most people have been seduced by these codes.
A UN Development Programme study found that almost 90 per cent of people are biased against women, and continue to hold byzantine ideas about gender.
Case in point: nearly one-third of men and women think it’s acceptable for a man to beat his wife, and almost half of people think men make superior political leaders.
The report also found that, if the world continues at its current pace, we aren’t likely to hit any of the key gender equality targets it studied in the next ten years. Progress is a slow and sluggish march.
“It’s time to use these statistics to focus on actions and accountability,” Rima Thaker, youth ambassador at PIC, said in the news release for the PIC study.
“We share vulnerabilities, which means we can share solutions together as well. Unlike previous generations, my generation has seen progress towards a more inclusive world. This progress gives me that spark of hope and optimistic energy that we really do have the capability to achieve gender equality.”
Also on HuffPost: