Last week, gender equality made headlines in Georgia’s national media. Surprised? We were too — happily surprised!
Everything happened after we announced the findings of our Public Perceptions on Gender Equality in Business and Politics research project.
“There have been no shifts in public perceptions of gender over the last five years,” we announced, and suddenly everyone seems to be talking about gender clichés.
We weren’t expecting this degree of public interest, but we’re thrilled that so many people are engaging in this important discussion.
According to our study, we found that:
- 88 percent of respondents believe that men should be the breadwinner of the family
- Just 37 percent of male respondents agreed that men and women should make decisions equally in the family
- 45 percent of respondents reported preferring a boy over a girl in single-child families (versus 33 percent who report that it doesn’t matter and just 20 percent who would prefer a girl)
- 57 percent of respondents believe that men have a better chance of gaining employment in higher-ranking positions
- 68 percent of respondents would prefer a male presidential candidate over a female candidate
- Males are privileged in both property and educational rights
At first glance, it might appear that women are well respected in Georgia, but in reality, Georgian society is very judgmental toward them. Society has set boundaries around women’s roles and has limited their freedom of choice.
According to the study, most Georgians believe that women may only achieve self-actualization once they marry and have children, while a career is exclusively the field of self-actualization for men.
Despite the frustration that can be caused by such predefined gender roles and expectations, the majority of Georgians — both men and women — unconditionally accept and follow the roles defined for them.
There is no one to blame, neither men nor women, for this situation. We believe that stereotypes related to gender roles in the family define the behaviour of men and women in their social lives.
In Georgian families, women tend to assume a subordinated role, and men are considered the heads of the family. Women also tend to maintain this attitude of subordination outside of the family, which often leads to low self-esteem and a lack of motivation to demand better for themselves.
Because family takes first place in the hierarchy of values for the vast majority of both women and men in Georgia (89 percent of respondents agreed to this statement), people rarely question the family traditions and gender roles that have been passed down for generations.
The good news is that we did see a shift in some traditional beliefs. Although 88 percent of respondents cited the role of breadwinner as being the domain of men, 34 percent believe that women are the breadwinners of the family nowadays. Also encouraging is that 51 percent of respondents are convinced that the increased involvement of women in business and politics would benefit the country.
It’s clearly the right time to encourage discussion about gender equality and stereotypes, which hopefully will encourage positive change. To stir further discussion and create even bigger buzz we’ve started a guerilla marketing campaign using our research data. (Stay tuned for more on this in my next post!)
In the meantime, here’s something to think about: When I was presenting the study’s results to journalists last week, one of them, a woman, said to me,
“It’s great that we are supporting women’s empowerment, but to be honest, sometimes I have some hesitations. Being a stronger woman means saying no to flowers and saying goodbye to femininity. Do we really need this?”
My answer was simple: “I love flowers, and at the same time, I support equal opportunities.”
I don’t think they contradict. Do you?