4. Measuring progress towards gender-equitable masculinities 

Monitoring social change towards more gender-equitable masculinities requires the right indicators to pinpoint challenges and track progress. Data and evidence have been an important part of the gender equality agenda. With the right data, policy makers and other stakeholders can identify the main challenges, design effective policies and programmes, and understand the relationships between legal frameworks, social norms and women’s outcomes. In doing so, data allow them to monitor the impact of policies, legal reforms and programmes, and the same can be true when it comes to shifting masculinities, provided that the right data are available.

The right data for monitoring progress towards gender-equitable masculinities should allow insights into the attitudes, practices and legal frameworks that signal declining acceptance of restrictive masculinities. Attitudinal data should measure a decrease in the percentage of the population – including both women and men – that supports gender-inequitable statements and behaviours. Moreover, as individual men must navigate these norms and, in doing so, have opportunities to choose whether to adopt or reject these norms, it is important to understand how they see the risks of not conforming to these dominant ideals. In order to measure these views, there is a need for indicators that assess men’s perceptions of their communities’ beliefs. However, these attitudinal variables may not be enough to understand how widespread norms of restrictive masculinities are. As such, these data should be accompanied by indicators of the prevalence of harmful practices – such as violence against women – and outcomes data indicating gender imbalances, such as the percentage of women in parliaments. Finally, indicators assessing legal frameworks add another layer of insight. Laws can not only reflect the social norms governing a society, but they can also create constraints and opportunities when it comes to the behaviours of men and women that may uphold restrictive masculinities. For instance, legal frameworks that do not permit women to be heads of household send a clear message that men are, by default, the decision makers in households.

Using a combination of available data and proposals for new indicators, this chapter proposes a list of indicators to guide efforts to measure progress towards changing masculinities. Specifically, this chapter suggests a list of indicators that policy makers can currently use to track progress in transforming masculinities across the ten defining norms described in Chapters 2 and 3, presented in Table 4.1. Each table contains indicators to measure laws, attitudes associated with restrictive masculinities, and the consequences of these norms for women and girls (Table 4.2 to Table 4.11). Each table includes “ideal” indicators identified to best measure progress; however, as there are very few available ideal indicators, and those which are available are limited by low country coverage, tracking progress towards gender-equitable masculinities at present remains limited. As such, each table also includes a list of currently available indicators. In doing so, the tables provide a way forward for future data collection efforts to identify and measure the status of masculinities and their impact on women’s empowerment across countries at the global level.

These lists of indicators reveal and respond to critical data gaps and important asymmetries between developing and developed countries. First, there are more data available on gender norms in the private sphere in developing countries, whereas in developed countries most of the available data on gender norms and norms of restrictive masculinities focus on the economic and public sphere. Second, there are more data available on gender-equitable masculinities in developed countries. This risks giving the impression that gender-equitable masculinities originate or exist only in developed countries. Both of these trends in the data point to the pressing need for a universal measurement that, on the one hand, recognises both the public and private spheres as sites of norms of masculinities, and on the other hand, allows for the measurement of progress towards gender-equitable masculinities in a comparable manner across developed and developing countries.

The data presented below permit important analysis of the mechanisms of norms of masculinities. For example, a correlation analysis of available indicators reveals that restrictive masculinities are self-reinforcing, whereas this is not the case for gender-equitable masculinities. In this analysis, two types of indicators were used: i) indicators measuring the percentage of the population agreeing with norms of restrictive masculinities, and ii) indicators measuring the percentage of the population supporting gender-equitable masculinities. Indeed, the correlation among the first set of indicators is higher and much more significant than among the second. This means that where some norms of restrictive masculinities are widely accepted, other norms of restrictive masculinities are as well. For example, where the norm that men are breadwinners is widespread, the other norms listed in this report are likely also widespread. Conversely, when a norm of gender-equitable masculinities is widely supported by the population, others are not necessarily also widely accepted. Findings such as these rely on the availability of quality data and provide interesting results to be considered in policy making and programming.

By identifying ten norms of restrictive masculinities and outlining indicators to measure them, this publication aims to pinpoint new avenues to promote women’s empowerment. Indeed, promoting women’s empowerment requires that restrictive masculinities be systematically addressed and measured as hidden drivers of gender inequality. As a starting point on the path to measurement, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 identified and described ten norms of restrictive masculinities. With these ten norms identified, Chapter 4 has outlined lists of indicators that can be used to measure these norms by accounting for legal frameworks, attitudes and the associated practices that lead to serious consequences for women’s empowerment. By including these three types of indicators, efforts to measure these norms can reveal how widely accepted restrictive masculinities are within a population as a starting point for efforts to transform these restrictive masculinities into gender-equitable alternatives.

Measuring masculine norms can support evidence-based policy making for transformation. The ability to measure masculine norms can aid evidence-based policy making by identifying the most important norms to be urgently addressed and, over time, to measure progress in changing these norms into more gender-equitable masculinities. Measuring how masculine norms change over time can provide evidence regarding the effectiveness of policies and interventions aimed at transforming restrictive masculinities into gender-equitable ones. With the data for each of the ideal indicators listed in the tables in this chapter, it would be possible to construct a conceptual framework to measure the current status of masculine norms at the national, regional and international levels. This framework can guide efforts to systematically analyse masculine norms which, in turn, can accelerate gender equality by identifying which norms are barriers to change and demonstrating the ways that gender equality benefits all people.

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