The roles of women in society have increasingly been a common topic of discussion around the world, particularly as they relate to gender equality and women’s empowerment. Though big strides have been made in closing the gender gap both at work and at home, there are still significant disparities in terms of poverty, the labor market and wages, as well as participation in private and public decision-making.
For this year’s International Women’s Day, Nielsen explored how women’s attitudes and beliefs are evolving alongside the larger ongoing discussion of gender equality. Spoiler alert: gender disparity still exists. But the good news is that younger women are more optimistic about their futures and have greater expectations for their careers, their finances and their personal lives.
When it comes to the workplace, the majority of women around the world, regardless of age, say they are paid less and that women are not treated equitably in society. But when looking at generational splits, Millennial women are more positive about their ability to grow their careers compared to the older generations. Millennial women perceive more equality in professional development and are more positive than Baby Boomers in terms of fair pay, the position or treatment of women, and overall gender equality.
While younger generations feel there is more gender equality in the workplace—perhaps because there is increased collaboration—there is still room for improvement. Both Millennial (20%) and Baby Boomer women (25%) said they “strongly agree” that women are less likely to be considered for senior-level roles in a business/corporate setting than their male counterparts. And once in those senior roles, Nielsen's research showed that 66% of women regardless of age say that female leaders have to work harder to prove themselves.
Millennial women are also far more positive about the state of their own finances than their Boomer counterparts. This may stem from their optimism about their job prospects in the next 12 months; half of Millennial women feel positively about their professional prospects.
Traditional gender roles within the household also show signs of change. In general, when it comes to childcare and caring of ill or older family members, Millennial women feel there is more collaboration with their domestic partners than do Boomer women. For childcare, 44% of Millennial women say they share the responsibility with their partner, compared with 29% of Baby Boomer womens. Half (50%) of Millennial women say caring for sick or ill family members is a shared responsibility, while just 38% of Boomer women say their partner pitches in.
For household responsibilities, women still bear the lion’s share of duties. A majority of women, regardless of age, say they are responsible for household chores like cleaning and laundry (51%) and meal preparation and cleanup (54%). Approximately 40% of women say they have have primary responsibility over managing household finances, and 41% say they are responsible for managing the general household schedule and operations.
Depending on the country or region, the perceived distribution of various household responsibilities looks very different. For example, in Africa and the Middle East, only 19% of women say they have the primary responsibility for managing household finances. In Southeast Asia, 55% of women said they share responsibility for household scheduling and operations jointly with their domestic partners.
To be sure, beyond just generational differences, there remains a clear divide in how women and men view the perceived progress toward gender equity. When asked about a number of issues, including overall gender equality, pay equity for women, perceived progress for women in society, and the impact of having a child on the professional prospects of women, men were more positive.
There remains a great deal of work to be done to make gender equality real around the world. But the optimism that younger women have for their roles in society, their professional aspirations, and the social and financial opportunities available to women suggests that gender equality can be a reality sooner rather than later. There is a powerful cohort of women already changing traditional gender conventions.
The women of tomorrow are indeed the “more generation.” They are more hopeful about their personal prospects at work, achieving more equality at home, and more positive about how their communities and societies perceive women and their impact. Given the potential power of their contributions, women consumers are a force that can’t be ignored.