New study claims men are more disadvantaged than women
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Researchers from the University of Essex have published a controversial new study suggesting men are the true victims of gender inequality – with women at an overall advantage.
The paper, published today, January 3, claims to have found that men are, on average, more disadvantaged than women in 91 out of 134 countries – including Great Britain.
The findings are based on a new measure called the Basic Index of Gender Inequality (BIGI), which focuses on three key factors – educational opportunities, healthy life expectancy and overall life satisfaction.
Professor Gijsbert Stoet, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex, said these were determined as the key life elements that directly influence human wellbeing, or the “minimum ingredients of a good life,” as stated on the BIGI website.
Using this measure, women are deemed to be better off in the majority of countries assessed, including Great Britain.
However Amy Roch, a prominent women’s campaigner and director at Suffolk Rape Crisis, questioned the researchers’ methods – arguing that the findings lacked depth.
“If you remove the indicators of inequality that disproportionately affect women then of course you are going to find less gender inequality,” she said. “I question this research methodology and would challenge their claim that it is ‘unbiased’.”
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To calculate the overall BIGI score, researchers first looked at the expected number of years children of each gender spent in education – both at primary and secondary level, coupled with literacy rates.
The study found that, in Great Britain, men fall somewhat behind, which Professor Stoet said was down to fewer boys staying on to sit their A Levels.
Secondly, researchers assessed ‘healthy life expectancy’ – comparing the average number of years lived in good health for each gender.
For this category, men fell 3.3% behind, with a healthy life expectancy of 70 years, compared to 72 years for women in the 2012-2016 period.
Lastly, the study took into account ‘overall life satisfaction’, based on Gallup World Poll data. For the sake of the BIGI measure, the data is drawn from just one question – which asked people across the world to rate the quality of their life on a scale of 1 to 10.
However, when presented with the data, Ms Roch found fault with the research methods – arguing that the study ignored a number of key issues.
“Measuring inequality based on educational opportunities fails to take into account the end result for women and girls,” she said.
“Despite girls having higher attainment and being more likely to go to university we still see that women are paid less, are less likely to reach the highest positions within their industry and are more likely to be discriminated against when they have children.”
When asked why other key factors such as workplace pay and crime rates weren’t included in the calculation, Professor Stoet said these could be considered ‘secondary’ wellbeing factors – meaning they do not apply to everybody in equal measure, and therefore would not be appropriate to include in a universal assessment.
In order to keep the study fair, he said all ‘secondary’ factors, including those which disproportionately affect men – such as high suicide rates – must therefore be excluded.
“You have to make a choice in which things you are going to include,” he said.
“That is where [other studies] become biased.”
He argued that because many women and men share household incomes, workplace pay would not be an accurate measure of wellbeing.
“Pay does not necessarily affect life quality,” he said. “Most people in families share the income.”
However Ms Roch disputed this claim, arguing that Professor Stoet’s assumption was irrelevant.
“It doesn’t matter if household income is shared, women are still getting paid less,” she said.
“You shouldn’t need a male partner to prop up your income and this is not representative of households in the UK.”
Using the BIGI measure, researchers claimed the most developed countries come closest to achieving equality, albeit with a slight advantage for women.
Meanwhile, the paper argues women are worse off in the least developed countries – largely because they have fewer opportunities to get a good education.
Professor Stoet added: “No existing measure of gender inequality fully captures the hardships that are disproportionately experienced by men in many countries and so they do not fully capture the extent to which any specific country is promoting the wellbeing of all its citizens.
“The BIGI provides a much simpler way of tackling gender inequality and it focuses on aspects of life that are directly relevant to all people. Used alongside other existing indicators, it provides additional and different information to give a more complete assessment of gender equality, making it easier for policy-makers to introduce changes to improve the quality of life for both men and women.
“We’re not saying that women in highly developed countries are not experiencing disadvantages in some aspects of their lives. What we are saying is that an ideal measure of gender equality is not biased to the disadvantages of either gender. Doing so, we find a different picture to the one commonly presented in the media.”
But Ms Roch said she was not satisfied the new study was itself unbiased – arguing that the researchers ignored vital evidence that she claimed would paint a very different picture of gender equality if taken into consideration.
“Two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner in the UK and reporting of sexual violence is at an all-time high,” she added.
“Women experience sexual harassment in the workplace, on the street and online. This violence has a huge impact on women and girls – in terms of their health and wellbeing and economically.
“Ignoring this reality does not make for unbiased research, it just makes bad research.”
Until now the Global Gender Gap Index, introduced in 2006, has been one of the most established and well-used measures of national gender inequality, referenced by academics and policy makers across the world.
However Professor Stoet argued it does not measure issues where men are at a disadvantage, such as harsher punishments for the same crime, compulsory military service and more occupational deaths.
The paper was published by researchers from the University of Essex and the University of Missouri in the USA.