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Americans Regard Gender Equality as Unfinished Business
Politics

Americans Regard Gender Equality as Unfinished Business

Americans Regard Gender Equality as Unfinished Business

Story Highlights

  • Roughly two-thirds doubt gender equality exists in workplace or politics
  • Majorities predict achieving equality will take more than a decade
  • Two in three consider 19th Amendment a key advancement for women

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A century after women in the U.S. gained the right to vote with the adoption of the 19th Amendment in August 1920, most Americans think additional work remains before women achieve equality with men. Nearly seven in 10 U.S. adults (69%) say women have not yet achieved equality in the workplace, and 66% say the same about politics.

Women are even less confident than Americans as a whole about gender equality. Roughly three-quarters say equality has not been realized in either sphere -- 79% for the workplace and 75% for politics. Men agree, but by smaller majorities.

Americans' Perception of Gender Equality in the Workplace and Politics
Thinking about life in the U.S. today, do you think women have achieved equality with men in [Rotate: the workplace/politics]?
U.S. adults Men Women
% % %
The workplace
Yes 31 42 21
No 69 58 79
Politics
Yes 34 43 25
No 66 57 75
Gallup Panel, July 13-19, 2020

Partisanship is a stronger factor than gender when it comes to perceptions of women's equality, but a gender gap persists among Republicans. While majorities of Republicans believe women have achieved equality in the workplace and politics, Republican women are less certain of these achievements than are Republican men:

  • 56% of Republican women contrasted with 75% of Republican men say women have achieved equality with men in the workplace.

  • 63% of Republican women versus 82% of Republican men believe women have equality with men in politics.

Meanwhile, more than nine in 10 Democratic women and men alike think women have not achieved equity in both the workplace and politics.

These findings are based on self-administered web interviews conducted July 13-19 with a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults, using the Gallup Panel.

Most Foresee a Long Road to Equality

Those who believe equality has not yet been realized in the workplace or politics were then asked how long they think it will take for women in the United States to achieve equality with men in each area. When looking at the results of all Americans, few foresee equality being reached within the next decade -- 13% for the workplace and 12% for politics. The majority think it will take another 10, 20 or 30+ years -- if it ever happens.

Outlook for Length of Time Before Equality is Achieved in the Workplace and Politics
How long do you think it will take for women in the United States to achieve equality with men in [the workplace/politics]?
The workplace Politics
% %
Already achieved 31 34
Less than 10 years 13 12
10 to 19 years 20 16
20 years to 29 years 16 13
30 or more years 12 16
Never 8 9
Gallup Panel, July 13-19, 2020

Women are more pessimistic than men about achieving equality in both the workplace and political realms. About a third of women (32%) versus 17% of men predict political equality will take another 30-plus years to achieve if it ever happens. For workplace equality, 25% of women versus 15% of men think women are in for a long haul.

Outlook for Women's Equality With Men in Each Sphere, by Gender
Have equality now Less than 20 years 20 to 29 years 30 or more years or never
% % %
Workplace
Men 42 30 14 15
Women 21 37 17 25
Politics
Men 43 27 13 17
Women 25 30 14 32
Gallup Panel, July 13-19, 2020

Older women are more optimistic than younger women about achieving equality within the next 20 years, but this is especially pronounced for politics.

  • There is a 40-percentage-point age difference in women's belief that equality exists or will be realized in politics in under 20 years; 74% of women aged 65+ believing this versus 34% of those aged 18 to 44.

  • By contrast, there is a 17-point age difference in women's views about workplace equality; 64% of women aged 65+ versus 47% of those 18 to 44 believe equality exists or will happen in under 20 years.

Most Identify 19th Amendment as Key, if Not Top, Advancement

The 19th Amendment was ratified more than seventy years after the "First Women's Rights Convention" in Seneca Falls, NY, that launched the women's suffrage movement.

Two-thirds of Americans consider the amendment to have been either "the most important step" in advancing women's rights in the U.S. (23%) or "one of the most important steps" (45%). Another 30% call it "just one of many important steps," while 2% say it wasn't important.

Men assign slightly greater significance to the amendment than do women: 26% of men vs. 21% of women call it the most important step that has been taken to further women's rights in the U.S.

Importance of 19th Amendment to Women's Rights in the U.S.
In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution gave women in the United States the right to vote. Compared to other steps that have been taken to further women's rights in the U.S., how important do you consider the 19th Amendment to achieving that goal?
U.S. adults Men Women
% % %
The most important step 23 26 21
One of the most important steps 45 42 48
Just one of many important steps 30 30 29
Not an important step 2 2 2
Total most important/one of the most important steps 68 68 69
Gallup Panel, July 13-19, 2020

Among women, appreciation for the 19th Amendment is somewhat correlated with age, as the percentage calling it the most important step for women's equality rises from 13% of women aged 18 to 44, to 21% of those 45 to 64, and 31% of those 65 and older.

Eight in 10 Acknowledge Progress Since 19th Amendment

Consistent with the small percentages of Americans who believe equality has been achieved in work and politics, relatively few (36%) think the United States has made a lot of progress on women's rights since the 19th Amendment was ratified. Another 44% say there has been a fair amount of progress, while 20% say only a little or none.

Women are much less positive than men about the amount of progress that has been made as 29% of women versus 43% of men describe it as a lot of progress. Women are more likely than men to say a fair amount or only a little progress has been made.

Americans' Assessment of the Progress the U.S. Has Made on Womens' Rights
How much progress do you think the United States has made in the area of women's rights since the 19th Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1920?
U.S. adults Men Women
% % %
A lot 36 43 29
A fair amount 44 42 47
Only a little 19 14 23
None 1 1 1
Gallup Panel, July 13-19, 2020

Bottom Line

Women's access to the ballot has been the norm throughout the lives of nearly all adults living today, yet Americans have a broad appreciation for the significance of that achievement for women, as two-thirds describe it as the most or one of the most important steps in the advancement of women's equality in the U.S.

At the same time, Americans, and particularly women, view the 19th Amendment as the beginning of the road to equality, not the end. This may reflect frustration with the continued low levels of women filling leadership roles in business and government. For instance, the number of women CEOs in the U.S. hit a record high of 37 this year, up from two in 2000, but is still only 7% of the total. This is in spite of nearly half of women employees aspiring to C-Suite positions in their career. The #MeToo movement could be another factor in perceptions of women's inequality, with close to half of all women saying they have been the victim of sexual harassment.

Older women -- perhaps because they have witnessed more change in their own lifetimes -- are more likely than younger women to both believe significant progress has occurred since the adoption of the 19th Amendment and to be more optimistic about how soon full equality might be achieved. But the majority of women of all ages see more work to be done in both the workplace and politics.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

Learn more about how the Gallup Panel works.


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