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1 in 4 men think women’s equality has come at their expense

July 7, 2020, 6:00 PM UTC

Roughly one in four U.S. men say that the progress women have made toward equality has come at the expense of men, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

Ahead of the August centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted some women the right to vote, Pew took a big-picture look at the state of gender equality in America. In a survey of more than 3,000 U.S. adults conducted in March and April of this year, men and women shared their feelings on the progress women have—or haven’t—made in the last century.

The most jarring finding may be that a significant portion of men—28%—think women’s progress in society, from gains in the workforce to political representation, have come at the expense of men. That sentiment was particularly strong among Republican men (38%), who are twice as likely as Democratic males (19%) to see men’s status as undermined by the progress of women. A quarter of Republican women agree with their male political peers.

However, most respondents—57%—think that the push for gender equality hasn’t gone far enough. Among those who agree that more progress is needed, sexual harassment is seen as the biggest obstacle facing women, followed by “women not having the same legal rights as men,” societal expectations for women, and a shortage of women in positions of power. Family responsibilities—a major concern for many working women with schools and childcare centers closed during the coronavirus crisis—come in fifth as a factor holding women back.

More U.S. adults now think additional progress is needed on gender equality than thought so three years ago. In 2017, only half of respondents believed the U.S. hadn’t gone far enough to advance gender equality.

Another gender gap appears when it comes to questions about how optimistic respondents are that gender equality is within reach. Thirty-seven percent of men who believe the country has not gone far enough to achieve equal rights believe reaching that milestone is very likely, compared to only 26% of women. Democratic women are among the least likely to expect men and women will ever achieve equal rights.

What would a future with gender equality look like? Full equality, for many Americans, would be most apparent in the workplace. Survey respondents cite equal pay and the end of discrimination in hiring and promotions as hallmarks of a society that has achieved gender equity; women older than 50 are more likely to point to equal pay as a top indicator of equality. One in 10 respondents say equal representation of women in leadership—throughout both business and politics—will reflect gender equity.

Part of the report addressed not just the state of gender equality, but also the feminist movement that has pushed for it. Survey respondents think that white, Black, and Hispanic women have all benefited from the feminist movement—but a racial gap appears when respondents are asked how much women of different racial backgrounds benefited. More, at 32%, say that white women have benefited “a lot” from feminism, compared with those who say the same of Black (21%) and Hispanic (15%) women.

Women who responded to the survey also reflected on their own personal gains, compared to societal advances for women at large. Four in 10 women say the feminist movement has benefited them personally; Democratic women, women who have a bachelor’s degree, and women under the age of 50 are the most likely to agree.

The most important milestones in women’s progress, according to survey respondents, were the beginning of women’s suffrage and the passing of the Equal Pay Act, followed by the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act and the introduction of the birth control pill. White people were more likely to cite the 19th Amendment as a crucial milestone.

The report also found that most Americans support adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—an issue currently tied up in court, which recently earned the support of American businesses—but most don’t think the amendment will make much of a difference to women’s equality in day-to-day life.