International Women’s Day: Perceptions are not reality and we’re not as close to equality as we think

08 March 2018 | From Arrive Alive


The most important issue facing women and girls in South Africa[1] is sexual violence, and both women and men agree about this. When the results of 28 countries are considered, this is the second most important issue (28%) in the world, while sexual harassment tops the international list (32%).

As the only African country included in the Global Advisor study the South African results are particularly interesting:

As the only African country included in the Global Advisor study the South African results are particularly interesting

Looking at the worldwide figures, South Africa’s figures for mentioning “Domestic Abuse” and “Access to Sanitary Products” as important issues are the highest in the world. A rather dubious honour in both cases.

People in all 28 countries overestimate the scale of violence women experience from partners[2], and South African women say that 62 out of every 100 women experience sexual violence from a spouse or partner. The figure for South African men is 51. In fact, 13% of South African women experience such abuse.

Women’s position in the workplace and high office was highlighted from a few angles. Whereas only 3% of the CEOs of the world’s 500 largest companies are women, South Africans reckoned that this figure was closer to 16%. In this, we are no different from the rest of the world – who was also overestimating the real business success of women. Of the 28 countries included in the survey, currently 44% of Swedish MP’s are women, the figure in Mexico is 43% and South Africa’s figure is 40%. In the rest of the world, far fewer women are part of political decision-making.

However, this success is not communicated and only about a quarter of South Africans are aware of this commendable fact. South Africans, like all others, hugely underestimate how long it will take for women to achieve economic equality across the world[3]. It will take 217 years, and South Africans reckoned that 20 years will bring equality.

Technical Detail:

  • In total 19,428 were interviewed between 26 January – 9 February 2018. The survey was conducted in 27 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the USA).
  • Approximately 1000 individuals aged 16-64 or 18-64 were surveyed in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, Great Britain, and the USA. Approximately 500 individuals aged 16-64 were surveyed in Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Turkey.
  • The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/- 3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points. For more information on the Ipsos use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.
  • The “actual” data for each question is taken from a variety of verified sources. A full list of sources/links to the actual data can be found here: http://perils.ipsos.com/
  • Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. 16 of the 27 countries surveyed generate nationally representative samples in their countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and United States). Brazil, Chile, China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey produce a national sample that is considered to represent a more affluent, connected population. These are still a vital social group to understand in these countries, representing an important and emerging middle class.


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At Ipsos, we are passionately curious about people, markets, brands and society.  We make our changing world easier and faster to navigate and inspire clients to make smarter decisions.  We deliver with security, speed, simplicity and substance. We are Game Changers.

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[1] The question was: “Which two or three, if any of the following, do you think are the most important issues facing women and girls in (COUNTRY)”?

[2] The question was: “Out of every 100 women in (COUNTRY), how many do you think to say they have been a victim of physical and/or sexual violence by a current or former partner or spouse at some point in their life?”

[3] The question was: “At the current rate of progress, how long in years will it take for men and women to have economic equality across the entire world?”

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