Take Five: “We all have the responsibility to create and cultivate gender equality, whether at home or in the workplace”

Date: Monday, June 17, 2019

Lynette Cooke. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Lynnette Cooke. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Lynnette Cooke is the Global CEO for the Health Division of Kantar. As part of the Unstereotype Alliance, Kantar and UN Women collaborated to develop the Gender Equality Attitudes Study that surveyed men and women in Colombia, India, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United States of America. The survey explored gender attitudes across broad topics, such as education, work, marriage and family life, safety and violence, and control over personal decisions, among others. The Gender Equality Attitudes Study will be published in July 2019. Ms. Cooke spoke to UN Women about the findings of the study and how it can be used to drive policy changes.

As part of the Unstereotype Alliance, Kantar and UN Women has collaborated to conduct a global Gender Equality Attitudes Study recently. Tell us about the study, and why did Kantar decide to conduct this research?

We know that gender equality is an accelerator for all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and women are catalysts for creating sustainable change in the world. Eric Salama, CEO of Kantar, was passionate about our involvement to spark a movement to change attitudes and behaviours. At Kantar, we are all about human understanding and we wanted to capture and illuminate the current sentiment around gender equality.

The Gender Equality Attitudes study was one of our many initiatives. We surveyed consumers, starting with 10 pilot countries, and our mission was to uncover the truths. In doing so, first, we wanted to gauge interest and appreciation for a gender-equal future. Second, we wanted to make sure that the survey assessed today’s reality and measure existing gaps. And, we wanted to identify the attitudes where we have the greatest opportunity to change behaviours. We will take all these insights and create programmes that are specifically designed to drive behaviour change. The study will be available by the end of July.

What are some main findings of the Gender Equality Attitudes Study?

The beauty of this study is its design—we have a validated survey research methodology that we worked on closely with UN Women, and a well-designed survey instrument. For the first time in years, we have current data that depict how men and women, of all ages, feel toward one another’s roles and responsibilities, both inside and outside of the home.

The timing of this [study] is so crucial, given the discussions that are taking place today, the dissension that we see across the world. We need to understand where women are seen as equals, and where they are not, and why. This study provides the evidence to help guide the way on how to close the gaps.

There are so many stories that emerged from our pilot study. The good news is that universally everybody believes (gender) equality will create a brighter, stronger, prosperous future and to realize the SDGs. But we have so much work ahead of us to make this a reality.

Even though the majority agree that (gender) equality is key to our future, it is not necessarily how people are behaving. When we asked certain questions, it revealed that our attitudes may not be aligned with what we think the future should hold. Our data support the hypothesis that men have greater access to opportunities and more control over both their lives and their spouse and the rest of their family.

Did any of the findings of the study surprise you?

The data from the study help us visualize what is actually taking place in people’s everyday lives. For example, when we asked consumers whether they approve of a woman earning more than her husband, [the responses] depict vast differences by country, and surprisingly, by age. I found it surprising that the age cohort of 20-34 years is less likely to believe that it’s okay for women to out earn their husbands!

We also asked a question do kids suffer when mom works for pay outside the home. A large proportion of people still agree that kids suffer if mom works outside the home. In Japan and Philippines, over half [of the respondents] and in Sweden, a full third [of the respondents] believed that kids would suffer when moms work outside the home. And that makes me worried, it makes me think, do we support women enough when they start their career, or when they have young children and also a career? I am drawn to that statistic more perhaps because I am a working mom and I appreciate all of the research that suggests kids of working moms lead happy childhoods and successful adult lives.

When the survey asked, do kids suffer when dad works for pay, the numbers are dramatically lower. This is just a snapshot of one or two data points. We still need to interrogate these data to identify what we do to spark a change.

What policy implications does this study have? How can we leverage the opportunity of the findings of the study?

The purpose of this study is to drive change at the policy level, and to provide evidence for programmes and policies.

The data point to the need for making sure that everyone has access to education, that women have access to acquiring land and access to technology in the same way as men do. There are a lot of discussions around equal pay, but before we get to equal pay, women need to have their basic rights to make decisions about themselves. By examining women’s and men’s roles and responsibilities, the data show that we need to put a greater value on women’s unpaid care work at home. At the policy level, stronger policies for parental leave and childcare is needed. But also, having equal care work at home is important.

The data emerging from this study can help educate the general public and raise awareness around these issues.

What would be your message to the private sector, especially the advertising and media industry?

We all have the responsibility to create and cultivate gender equality, whether at home or in the workplace. For the private sector this spans from the way we hire, train and develop employees to the way we promote our products and services. We all need to be mindful of how we feature women when we are promoting products, we need to make sure it’s done in a non-stereotyped way. Companies need to embed gender equality into their core values, and leaders should have objectives that are specific about creating equal workspaces. Getting actively engaged with organizations like UN Women, the Unstereotype Alliance, etc., is a good way to spark the movement. At Kantar, in the past few years we have invested much more time on inclusion and diversity, and we have tried to embed it in the way we behave. Ultimately, it’s about how we each show up at work and in our homes, and how much we behave as positive role models.