Bridging the Gender Divide: Empowering Young Allies

In today’s ever-changing social landscape, an unexpected shift in young people’s perceptions on gender equality is occurring. Recent studies indicate a growing gender divide in attitudes toward equality among young people. Young women are demonstrating stronger support for gender equality, while young men's views are either stagnating or becoming more conservative in some cases. This phenomenon is being observed worldwide, from the United States and Europe to South Korea and beyond.

Despite progress for women such as improvements in legal rights, increased awareness on issues such as sexual harassment and period poverty, and advances in access to education, young women continue to face gender-based challenges. Young men, conversely, perceive these advancements as threats to their own success and role in society, more so than their older male counterparts. Economic challenges faced by young men, such as the widening wealth gap, economic downturns and unstable job markets, can exacerbate feelings of disillusionment and reinforce beliefs that advocating for gender equality may limit personal success.

Societal pressure to conform to 'masculine' norms and the gender-specific challenges faced by men are often overlooked. Social media can exacerbate these issues by enabling the exploration and reinforcement of harmful forms of masculinity. The lack of attention to young men’s mental health further compounds misunderstandings surrounding about systemic gender inequalities and the goals and benefits of gender equality, widening the gap between young men and women.

This trend has not escaped Hong Kong. Our research showed that over 75% of university age men hold conservative ideas about gender roles and changing gender relations. These include, wanting their romantic partner to adopt traditionally feminine qualities and their future female spouse to shoulder the majority of childcare and household chores, with many believing in rape myths and harmful gender stereotypes, among other attitudes.

We know addressing the root cause and changing mindsets takes time. This is why we piloted our Young Allies Programme last year. Over the last seven months, we are proud of the way in which these young men, under the guidance of their Male Ally mentors, engaged in meaningful and often uncomfortable conversations about masculinity, privilege and allyship, and have gone on to challenge gender expectations and incorporate inclusive behaviours into their daily lives.

The work of gender equality involves everyone’s voice, especially that of our next generation. We are confident that by empowering the next generation of gender equality champions, we can amplify gender equal behaviours and mindsets in our homes, workplaces and broader society, bridging the gender divide and creating a gender equal society.

How we can help young men embrace gender equality:

1. Creating safe spaces to encourage young men to express their concerns and fears is essential. Help them recognise their anxieties and equipping them with tools to thrive in a rapidly changing world. Consider supporting our next cycle of Young Allies.

2. Engage in open and honest conversations that challenge stereotypes and misconceptions. Education and awareness are vital in helping young men understand that gender equality is not a threat to their own success.

3. Highlight positive male role models who actively support gender equality, inspiring young men to embrace inclusive and empathetic versions of masculinity.

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Written by

The Women's Foundation