New UNDP Data Shows Gender Biases Remain Entrenched

The latest data from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reveals that gender biases continue to persist, hindering progress towards gender equality and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The findings emphasize the urgent need to address discriminatory gender social norms that limit women's rights and opportunities.
The Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI), which measures biases against women in four key areas - political, educational, economic, and physical integrity - indicates that nearly 9 out of 10 men and women worldwide hold discriminatory gender biases. The index exposes the existence of glass ceilings, biased barriers, and sticky floors that contribute to gender disparities.
According to the report, half of the global population believes that men make better political leaders, while 40% consider men more suitable for business executive positions. Shockingly, 25% of the population believes that it is justified for men to physically abuse their wives, highlighting deep-rooted prejudices against women.
The persistence of gender biases in society is not only a violation of human rights but also socially wasteful, impeding progress and development. Efforts to eradicate gender prejudices and promote gender equality are crucial to creating inclusive societies.
While the term "glass ceiling" has been associated with women's advancement in the workplace, other invisible barriers hinder progress in various aspects of life. Political representation remains unequal, with only about one-fourth of legislators worldwide being women. Although there has been progress in equalizing girls' access to education globally, disparities still exist in fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs.
“Social norms that impair women’s rights are also detrimental to society more broadly, dampening
the expansion of human development. In fact, a lack of progress on gender norms is unfolding
against a human development crisis: the global Human Development Index (HDI) declined in
202 for the first time on record, and again the following year, everyone stands to gain ensuring
freedom and agency for women,” said Pedro Conceicao, head of UNDP’s Human Development
Report Officer.
Furthermore, a substantial gap in labor force participation rates between men and women persists, with men at 54% and women at 43%. Gender biases also extend to the realm of retirement, as retired women in the European Union receive an average of 39% less pension income than men. This gender disparity places women at a higher risk of poverty in their later years.
Efforts to tackle gender biases require addressing the "sticky floor" that prevents girls and women from reaching their full potential. Positive strides have been made in areas such as primary education access and maternal mortality reduction since 1990. However, there is a pressing need to shift social norms, as the lack of progress in gender norms coincides with a global decline in the Human Development Index (HDI) for the first time on record.
Governments play a critical role in shifting social norms through policies such as parental leave and labor market reforms. Investing in education, raising awareness, and promoting employment opportunities for women in traditionally male-dominated industries are key strategies to challenge biases and create more equitable societies.
Recognizing the economic value of unpaid care work is another essential step in challenging gender norms. Countries with high levels of gender biases witness women spending over six times more time on unpaid care work compared to men. By providing girls with quality education, encouraging their participation in STEM programs, and creating equal opportunities in the workforce, it is possible to reduce poverty among the elderly and empower women economically.
To accelerate progress toward gender equality by 2030, new perspectives and comprehensive approaches are needed. Investment in laws and policies that promote women's political participation, strengthened social protection systems, and innovative interventions to combat harmful social norms and gender stereotypes are essential in overcoming entrenched biases.
By taking concerted action at all levels, societies can break free from discriminatory gender social norms, pave the way for gender equality, and unlock the full potential of women and girls worldwide.
“An important place to start is recognizing the economic value of unpaid care work. This can be a very effective way of challenging gender norms around how care work is viewed. In countries with the highest level of gender biases against women, it is estimated that women spend over six times as much time as men on unpaid care work,” said Raquel Lagunas, Director of UNDP’s Gender Team.
“The first areas of policy focus throughout the life course may be on providing girls with high-quality education, encouraging girls to enroll in STEM programs, equalizing opportunities for women in the workforce, striking a balance between paid and unpaid employment, and expanding pension alternatives for women. These programs might contribute to fewer elderly people living in poverty and more possibilities for women in the workforce,” said Astra Bonini, Policy Specialist at the Human Development Report Office, UNDP.
Investing in laws and policies which promote women's equality in political participation, expanding safety nets like a stronger social protection and care system, and encouraging innovative interventions that may be especially successful in combating harmful social norms, patriarchal attitudes, and gender stereotypes.