Second Gender Attitudes survey shows surprising shifts amongst Kiwis

The National Council of Women of New Zealand has released the second Gender Equal NZ Gender Attitudes survey.

The research, undertaken every second year by Research NZ, aims to provide an ongoing gauge of attitudes towards gender in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The inaugural 2017 survey gave a snapshot of New Zealander’s thoughts about gender at home, in the workplace and in their community. While the results showed that most New Zealanders recognised gender equality as a fundamental right for all, there was also a pocket of New Zealanders with outdated and old fashioned views about gender stereotypes. The 2019 results provide the opportunity to see whether attitudes have shifted, and in which areas.

“We thought we would see a positive shift in the public’s attitude on gender. Despite global events like #MeToo and the #TimesUp movement, this attitudinal progress and shift in focus on gender equality is not reflected in the recent survey results,” says National Council of Women of New Zealand President, Lisa Lawrence.

“While the large majority of New Zealanders (80%) believe gender equality is a fundamental right, in both 2017 & 2019 surveys, 20% of respondents did not agree with this point of view, which cannot be dismissed as an insignificant percentage of the population. This is a concerning result which requires attention because it drives the core beliefs that underpin gender inequality.”

At a high level, the 2019 survey recorded a significant shift in the percentage of New Zealanders believing that ‘gender equality has for the most part been achieved’ (42% in 2019 compared to 30% in 2017). However, looking at this in greater detail would suggest that little is considered to have been achieved in the range of specific areas covered by the survey.

“This suggests that opinions on gender equality being achieved is based on a perception, possibly driven by events which have occurred in the interim, rather than actual outcomes in specific areas,” says Lawrence.

More respondents this year considered New Zealand was doing well with respect to gender equality in the New Zealand Parliament (56% in 2019 and 48% in 2017) – likely due to the change in Prime Minister in between surveys.

However, the three areas in which the smallest percentage of respondents considered that New Zealand was ‘doing well’ with respect to gender equality were: Senior management (31%), The armed forces (35%), and The welfare system (36%). In fact, over one-third of respondents rated the gender equality record in senior management as poor (36%).

This year, a significantly greater percentage of respondents agreed that, a ‘woman should have the right to choose whether or not she has an abortion’ than those in 2017 (72% compared with 66%). This may be connected to the recent campaigning and attention to the Abortion Law Reform in mid-2019.

There were concerning shifts in attitudes towards sexual violence, with significantly more respondents in the 2019 survey agreeing that, ‘false rape accusations are common’ (35%) compared with 29% in 2017.

“This is a concerning result because it shows that the ‘false accusation’ myth is not only persistent, but growing – despite the reality being very different. The reality is that under-reporting of rape is statistically a far larger problem than false accusations, and just as damaging to people’s lives,” says Lawrence.

The Gender Attitudes survey also asked respondents about their attitudes towards the LGBTQI+ community. Most respondents stated that they would be comfortable with gay and bisexual men and lesbian and bisexual women being part of their immediate family, one of their friends, a work colleague, their doctor, their teacher, etc (between 76% and 82%).

However, fewer respondents said they would be comfortable with trans women and trans men in most of these situations (between 59% and 69%). These results indicate there is still progress to be made in LGBTQI+ rights, particularly trans rights.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents stated that school lessons should include education on gender diversity. Almost one quarter of respondents either disagreed with (11%) or were unsure (13%) of educating on gender diversity in schools.

The survey was undertaken by Research New Zealand with generous support from the Ministry of Women, J R McKenzie Trust, volunteers who shared their stories, the NCWNZ team and our members.

View the full report at: https://genderequal.nz/ga-survey/

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