Since starting of women's movement in the West during the 1960s, support for gender equality has spread in uneven ways. There are three different transitions in gender attitudes linked with natural characteristics, a new study reveals.
The study was conducted by University of California, Davis. Professor Xiaoling Shu and graduate students Bowen Zhu and Kelsey Meagher, who analyzed data on more than 70,000 people in 47 countries to compare support for women's rights and support for women combining work and family.
The researchers compared gender attitudes with individual variables including gender, income, education and religion. They also covered economic development, women's economic independence and workforce participation.
The study showed that highest support for equal rights and gender roles were found in the countries with the highest rates of women participating in the labor force.
"Although economic development has liberalized attitudes toward gender equality, it has not led to growing support for women's dual roles as mothers and workers, largely due to the policies of liberal and conservative welfare states which are based on a male breadwinner model and provide little institutional support for working women," said the authors.
The researchers found three distinct transitions in gender attitudes which included; the first taken by the social democratic countries of Finland, Sweden and Norway is characterized by high economic development and high levels of women's economic independence. These features promote a highly democratic gender ideology towards women's rights.
The second was taken by liberal and conservative Western countries such as the United States, Germany and New Zealand which are characterized by economic wealth and modest rates of women's labor force participation. This combination produces a liberal individualist ideology, endorsing women's equality with men while subjecting women to culturally prescribed expectations of intensive mothering.
And the last one was taken up by former socialist states such as Russia, China and Romania, which features far less economic development, a high degree of women as chief wage earners and decent maternity leave provisions. These characteristics foster an ideology that upholds male supremacy.
They found that a country's wealth measured by gross national product, fosters support for gender equality but diminishes support for women's dual work and family roles.
The study revealed that in countries with high proportions of female breadwinners and generous childcare leave provisions, support for working women was more but it was not associated with approval for women to gain equal right.
The study, "Classifying and Mapping Gender Ideologies Globally: Gender Attitudes in 47 Countries," was presented in Philadelphia at the 113th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.