Nearly two-thirds (57%) of U.S. adults believe the nation has not gone far enough to ensure women have equal rights to men, according to a Pew Research Center report published July 7.

Thirty-two percent of respondents said such efforts have “been about right,” while 10% feel the country has “gone too far.”

Women (64%) were more likely than men (49%) to say not enough has been done, and Democrats (76%) were more likely than Republicans (33%) to feel this way.

Overall, 97% of respondents said it is very or somewhat important for women to have equal rights with men, with 98% of women and 96% of men affirming this view.

Sixty-five percent feel progress has been made over the past decade on gender equality, while 25% said things were about the same and 10% said that ground has been lost.

Ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920 was the leading milestone “in advancing the position of women in our country,” according to 49% of all U.S. adults.

The Equal Pay Act (1963) was cited by 29% of respondents as an important milestone, with the Family and Medical Leave Act (1993) cited by 12% and the availability of birth control by 8%.

Respondents who said the country needed to do more to ensure gender equality were asked to indicate whether they thought any of seven possible items were “major obstacles” to achieving this goal.

Sexual harassment was cited by 77% of all respondents as a leading obstacle.

Other leading obstacles were women not having the same legal rights as men (67%), different expectations that society has for men and women (66%) and not enough women in positions of power (64%).

For all seven obstacles polled, women were more likely than men to see them as major obstacles.

Good Faith Media reached out to several faith leaders for their reaction and response to the findings:

“I take some consolation in knowing that most Americans a) believe women and men should have equal rights, b) recognize that gender equality does not yet exist and c) admit that not enough has been done to ensure that women have the same rights as men,” said Mandy McMichael, associate director and J. David Slover assistant professor of ministry guidance at Baylor University. “This was not always the case.

“And yet, one of the things that COVID-19 has highlighted for me is how deeply imbedded these inequalities are in our society and thus how easy it is to fall back into old patterns and expectations,” she said. “To name just one example, lack of access to childcare during the COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately affected women, which will impact their careers for years after the pandemic has passed.”

“Gender inequality continues to persist across all sectors in America. Women in general and African American women in particular continue to be underrepresented in executive leadership positions,” said Chris Smith, pastor of Restoration Ministries of Greater Cleveland Inc.

“Carol M. Sanchez and Sonia Dalmia affirm that in 2017 approximately 5.2% of women were CEOs of S&P 500 companies. Only about 1.7% represent African American female executive leaders,” Smith said. “These statistics alone show that more needs to be done to ensure gender equality. Gender and race continue to present formidable obstacles to gaining equality in terms of leadership positions, economics and overall opportunities for advancement.”

“It is noteworthy that the vast majority of the respondents across the political spectrum affirmed the idea of gender equality in the abstract, but what the respondents meant by gender equality differed,” said Carol Ann Vaughn Cross, assistant professor in the Howard College of Arts and Sciences at Samford University. “Respondents diverged politically as much as by sex or ethnicity. In several places, Democratic-leaning men were more supportive of gender equality than Republican-leaning women.

“The different views of history among respondents of different ethnic identities is important, especially as we discuss the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment,” said Vaughn Cross, who directed the Christian Women’s Leadership Center at Samford from 2000-08.

“If white Christians continue to fail to recognize and understand intersectionality in history, they will perpetuate the limited knowledge that fueled the white identity politics and white supremacy of too many Southern and some Northern and Western suffrage movements as well as the anti-suffrage movements, often led by conservative white women.”

The full Pew report is available here. The topline results are available here.

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