UK women angry about lack of progress on equality and worsening casual sexism

UK women angry about lack of progress on equality and worsening casual sexism

Today, the first findings of the groundbreaking ‘What Women Want 2.0’ survey, one of the largest surveys of women’s aspirations in a generation, will be released. 


Published 22 November 2016

“Most of all I want real change now - I don't want my daughters to still be having this fight in 20 years!”

Today, the first findings of the groundbreaking ‘What Women Want 2.0’ survey, one of the largest surveys of women’s aspirations in a generation, will be released. They show that women are feeling angry and let down by the lack of progress towards gender equality and alarmed by increased and intense objectification of their bodies and those of their daughters.

First conducted in 1996, WWW 2.0 demonstrates some striking similarities in women’s demands for a gender equal society, twenty years on. The interim report shows that women still want equal pay, affordable childcare and equitable pensions and are dismayed to see their needs not considered “mainstream” enough to be priorities in Westminster.

Also striking is feedback about a rise in casual sexism fuelled by 24-hour media and online pornography. In 1996 women wanted an end to page 3; now they are dismayed by an even more intense objectification of female bodies resulting in pressure on children to look and behave in hypersexualised ways. They are calling clearly and loudly for Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in schools in order to help girls and boys develop healthy relationships and for young women to feel they have more autonomy over their bodies.

What Women Want 2.0 is led by Sue Tibballs who also ran the project twenty years ago, in partnership with the Women’s Equality Party who joined as an official partner in August 2016 and mobilised their branches to canvass door to door and across communities in the UK to listen to women’s priorities on the ground.

Sue Tibballs said: "It is striking how similar women's wants are twenty years ago and today. The biggest difference is in women's tone of voice. Women today feel they were promised equality and it isn't being delivered. They want to be free to be themselves and achieve their potential without being held back by their gender."

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party said: “It is appalling how little ground has been covered in twenty years since women in the first survey sought equal pay and workplace opportunities, an end to sexism and safer streets. And it is shocking to see the extent to which the media’s hyper-sexualisation of women feeds through to daily experiences of harassment, violence and intimidation for this generation and the next.”

“This week we will hear for the first time what our new PM is prioritising for her government and the economic prosperity of the United Kingdom. We urge the government to consider why UK women are still waiting for full social, political and economic participation - and pledge to ensure the next 20 years will be different.”

Compared to 1996 one the biggest differences is in the tone of the responses. Twenty years ago, women asked to be listened to, to have their views heard. Women today take that for granted. They know their value and they expect to be taken seriously. But they are frustrated by the lack of progress and are impatient for change.  

Initial findings from What Women Want 2.0:

  • Women are still expressing the same ‘wants’ as they did twenty years ago – and they are frustrated and angry by the lack of progress.
  • Women have done what was asked of them – working hard at their education, often outperforming their male peers. But society is not delivering in return.
  • Young women cannot find the jobs they studied for; many workplaces still have a strong male bias. Despite new initiatives to get more women onto the highest decision-making levels, too many are stuck at the bottom, deeply defined by social background and ethnicity.
  • When they start families, women do not find the support they need. Workplaces remain too inflexible; men are not taking their share; women who want to stay at home with children lack the financial support to do so.
  • Women are tired of being pressured to look a certain way, and feel this pressure is growing. Casual sexism and sexual harassment are commonplace, and women who experience sexual violence still do not receive the support they need. Too many women do not feel safe on the streets.
  • Overall, despite much talk of gender equality and women’s rights, very little has changed. Women recognize that much more radical change is required – by a host of social actors – if women are to really enjoy the same opportunities and freedoms as men, and be able to make their full contribution to society.

The survey has been supported by a wide range of partners including Girlguiding UK, Refuge and the Young Women’s Trust.

Read the full interim report on the What Women Want 2.0 website >>


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