Evolutions in Global Gender Norms: Findings from World Bank Study

Some takeaways from a recently published study (pdf file) from the World Bank on gender equality and shifting gender norms .  Thanks to the FP2P (From Poverty to Power) blog for the hat tip.

  1. Gender norms are evolving in the 20 countries of the study, but slowly and incrementally.


“One of the more consistent findings across the 97 research sites is the universality and resilience of the norms that underpin gender roles.  In every research location, women and men of all generations identified the dominance of women’s domestic role and men’s bread winning role as absolutely  core to female and male identities. Some of the focus groups gave evidence of gender norms changing, albeit slowly and incrementally, with new economic opportunity, markets, and urbanization.”

2. Increasing urbanisation is a powerful driver for gender equality.  On average, urban women face less discrimination than rural ones.

3. Shifts in economic activity (from agriculture and manufacturing to services) benefit women, but also disadvantage men:

The result unfortunately is at least as likely to be destructive (drinking, abandonment, violence) as ‘hey, let me do the cooking for once’. Which reinforces the growing focus within the gender rights movement on the construction of masculinity.” (FP2P)

4.  Gender preference for parents and willingness to invest in girls’ education are strong predictors for gender equality in a country.

5.  Gender studies should preferably look beyond outcome data such as female labour market participation or girls’ participation in education.  Gender norms are determined by decision-making at the household and individual levels, as well as the functioning of markets and formal and informal institutions.

6. Education is a main instrument to influence gender norms

“In particular, the education of boys and girls—beyond its role in building human capital—is crucial in shaping norms. In multiple discussions, adolescent boys and girls described how education exposed them to new ideas and knowledge, enlarging their capacity to analyse and encouraging critical scrutiny of established gender relations and the status quo. These discussions reaffirmed what is already known about the intergenerational transfer and reproduction of norms within households. Education fosters learning away from the household environment where gender roles are played out in every interaction and action. The research team realized the importance of ensuring that school curricula offer gender-neutral learning opportunities.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s