Researchers at the University of California, Davis have investigated gender attitudes across 47 countries to compare the different levels of support for equal rights. The experts found that support for women’s rights has spread across the globe since the movement of the 1960s, but it is still not distributed evenly.
Professor Xiaoling Shu and graduate students Bowen Zhu and Kelsey Meagher used machine learning to analyze data involving more than 70, 000 people from the World Values Survey.
The researchers compared individual variables that affect gender attitudes such income, education, and religion. They also examined three country-level influences including economic development, women’s economic independence, and workforce participation.
Overall, the highest amount of support for equal rights was found in countries where the largest numbers of women participate in the workforce.
The team identified three distinct transitions in gender attitudes, which were associated with national characteristics.
Across the social democratic countries of Finland, Sweden, and Norway that are characterized by high economic development, there were high rates of women’s labor force participation and high levels of women’s economic independence. These factors promote highly egalitarian views toward both women’s rights and dual mother-worker roles.
Liberal and conservative Western countries such as the United States, Germany, and New Zealand are characterized by economic wealth, modest rates of women’s labor force participation, fewer women as chief breadwinners, and inadequate maternity provisions. This combination promotes women’s equality, but also projects gender-based expectations of intensive mothering onto women.
Former socialist states such as Russia, China, and Romania – which are characterized by far less economic development – foster an ideology that upholds male supremacy.
“Although economic development has liberalized attitudes toward gender equality, it has not led to growing support for women’s dual roles as mothers and workers, largely due to the policies of liberal and conservative welfare states which are based on a male breadwinner model and provide little institutional support for working women,” wrote the study authors.
“On the other hand, despite high levels of women as primary wage earners and strong maternity provision in former socialist countries, women’s paid employment has not routinely led to beliefs about their equal rights and status with men.”
The study will be presented at the 113th American Sociology Association Annual Meeting.