Our International Women’s Day survey finds that women are still penalised in workplace for caring responsibilities

For International Women’s Day this year, the NFWI conducted a short survey among members to understand more about how gender equality and its progress is perceived. We are using International Women’s Day to highlight these findings as widely as possible.

The figures from our survey show thatWI members overwhelmingly believe that caring responsibilities continue to hamper women’s careers, and that more needs to be done to achieve true equality. We believe that the findings are a clarion call for change.

Key findings

“Society has come a long way in the last 50 years regards gender equality, but it still has a long way to go.”

“Having fought for equality in the 60s, I wonder now how much it has actually benefitted this generation.”

“At times of economic stress women bare the burden of the family even more and gender equality seems to roll backwards”

  • 90 per cent of respondents believe that more needs to be done for men and women to be equal in society.
  • 84 per cent of respondents agreed that women have more choices than ever.
  • 87 per cent of respondents believe a more equal society between men and women would be better for the economy.

Caring responsibilities

“As long as childcare in the UK is so expensive women will never get the same opportunities in their careers as men. As long as so many employers refuse flexible working we will see the same.”

WI members overwhelmingly believe that society expects women to take on the bulk of caring responsibilities. Unaffordable childcare costs, and a crumbling social care system means that women are left shouldering caring responsibilities, often while trying to provide for their families.

  • 92 per cent of respondents agree there is still a perception that women should be the main caregiver.
  • Nearly eight out of ten (79%) disagreed that men take on an equal share of caring responsibilities.
  • 93% agreed that more should be done to achieve gender equality in relation to caring responsibilities for older family members
  • 89% agreed that more should be done to achieve gender equality in relation to caring responsibilities for children


During most of my working life, I found that in order to progress, I needed to work much harder than the men”

“Disabled & Black women are doubly disadvantaged”

WI members overwhelmingly feel that women are at a disadvantage in the workplace. The combined difficulty of balancing careers with caring responsibilities is also clear.

  • 86 per cent agreed that women are under too much pressure to balance their career with caring responsibilities.
  • Nearly eight out of ten (78%) agree that women are penalised in the workplace for their caring responsibilities.
  • 91 per cent felt that women are judged by different standards to men in the workplace

81 per cent agree that women are disadvantaged in the workplace compared to men.

Commenting on the research, Melissa Green, Chief Executive of the WI said:

“Too many women are facing an impossible balancing act. Women are constantly juggling their careers and the demanding task of caring for their own children, grandchildren and too often their own parents amid a crumbling social care system.

These are women at the very heart of their families, communities and civic life across the country, yet their experiences are all too often ignored by society and politics and their contributions taken for granted. It’s time to shine a spotlight on these issues so that we build a system which reflects true equality and gives women the support they deserve.”

Pledge boards

In anticipation of International Women’s Day, WI members have also been active in calling for change. Members have shared their views about what needs to change and taking a stand on gender equality, through our pledge boards. You can see a few pictures here:

[Footnote] The survey was undertaken in February 2023 and asked the views of members on a range of gender equality issues. There were 923 overall completions. Percentages represent the breakdown of responses to individual questions and may represent lower completions than the overall total.