Research found that two-thirds of global workforce believe pay parity means gender equality

Across the globe people believe if men and women are paid the same they have achieved gender equality in the workplace, despite the United Nations stating the issue goes much further than just remuneration. Two-thirds of global workers think if men and women are paid the same they are in a position of gender equality, according to new proprietary research commissioned by MAXIS Global Benefits Network (MAXIS GBN). The research was conducted by an independent third party and featured results from 1,000 employees in ten different countries including the UK, US, Germany, Japan and Australia.1

However, the United Nations highlights equality goes further than money, emphasising the need for women to have equal opportunities for leadership2 and the need for non-discrimination and sexual harassment policies in the workplace.3 Australia (75%) has the greatest proportion of workers who believe equal pay equals gender equality while Japan has the lowest proportion at just 46%, in the UK it is 70%.    

The research also found that over two-thirds (67%) of office-based employees across the globe think firms should have to introduce an annual gender equality audit.1 A gender equality audit is a tool to assess and check the institutionalisation of gender equality in organisations including in their policies, provision of services and budgets. It enables firms to identify aspects of their organisational culture which may discriminate against one gender. Currently, only just over a quarter (27%) of the employes surveyed across the globe said their business currently had an annual gender equality audit in place. 40% of UK based employees said their firm has one in place compared to just 13% in Japan.

Employees state the greatest barrier to workplace gender equality in their organisation is unconscious bias. Unconscious bias, which can result in women being discriminated against in the workplace, happens automatically and is triggered by the brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations influenced by their background, cultural environment and personal experiences.4  

The second biggest barrier is too few senior female role models (20%). Other barriers identified include a lack of a formalised plan or strategy to ensure gender equality (14%), while one in ten (11%) pointed to active discrimination against women. 

The barriers are fairly consistent across different countries1 – in Australia (28%), Canada (25%), Germany (25%), Japan (25%) and the Netherlands (26%) unconscious bias is the greatest barrier while in Italy (22%) and Mexico (25%) it is the problem of too few senior female role models. In Brazil workers believe the problem starts in the education system (21%). In the UK and USA (both 27%) the greatest proportion of workers believe there aren’t any barriers to workplace equality.

Table one: Global attitudes to workplace equality

Country Percentage of employees that you believe if men and women are paid the same, for doing the same job, they have workplace equality? Percentage of employees that believe companies should have to introduce an annual gender equality audit Percentage of male workers that think a woman is being aggressive if she asks for a pay rise Percentage of male workers that think a woman is being aggressive if she asks for a promotion
UK 70% 69% 4% 1%
USA 64% 45% 4% 3%
Australia 75% 61% 3% 2%
Canada 71% 66% 0% 2%
Brazil 73% 92% 9% 8%
Germany 49% 60% 3% 2%
Italy 71% 75% 9% 8%
Japan 46% 53% 6% 11%
Mexico 73% 85% 6% 6%
Netherlands 61% 66% 0% 3%
Overall 65% 67% 4% 4%


Patsy Langridge, Global Director Marketing & Digital, MAXIS GBN, said: “As an employee benefits network we are always looking at the issues and topics that interest our multinational clients and we know that pay parity is part of a wider discussion about the workplace, which includes employee benefits packages and workplace culture. The research shows many workers would welcome the introduction of audits to see how their workplace is evolving. Progressive firms across the world are investing in training and education programmes to help remove barriers to progress.

“In the employee benefits industry we have brought together consultants, brokers and providers to explore the role these packages can play in helping support equality in the workplace. There are gender specific issues where employees need support from targeted wellness programmes, such as supporting women through issues resulting from the menopause.”

The research also found some interesting contradictions. While 20% of men surveyed believe there is unconscious bias in the workplace, one in 25 male workers still also believes that a woman is being aggressive in the workplace if she asks for a pay rise or a promotion. A quarter1 of male workers believe if a woman threatens to leave an organisation to try and push through a pay rise, she is acting aggressively. In Italy and Brazil almost one in ten (9%) of male workers think a woman is being aggressive in the workplace if she asks for a pay rise, while 11% of male Japanese workers believe it is aggressive if a female employee asks for a promotion. 

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1  MAXIS GBN commissioned research amongst 1,000 workers across 10 global markets in June 2019. The research was undertaken online by an independent third party.  Global markets researched: UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Italy, Japan, Netherlands
2  Gender equality in Ireland, (sourced October 2019)  
3  United Nations Global Compact, (sourced October 2019)
4  Advance HE,  (sourced October 2019)
About MAXIS GBN MAXIS Global Benefits Network (MAXIS GBN), co-founded by MetLife and AXA in 1998 is one of the leading international employee benefits networks providing global service capabilities and delivering world-class employee benefits perspectives and solutions to clients in 110 markets around the world.  In February 2016, MetLife and AXA further strengthened their relationship by combining all of its MAXIS GBN existing operations under a joint venture company. This transformation helps leverage the existing strength of the network and its two parent companies while further enhancing the client experience, focusing on product innovation and providing data analytics. For more information, please visit  
The MAXIS Global Benefits Network (“Network”) is a network of locally licensed MAXIS member insurance companies (“Members”) founded by AXA France Vie, Paris, France (AXA) and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, New York, NY (MLIC). MAXIS GBN, registered with ORIAS under number 16000513, and with its registered office at 313, Terrasses de l’Arche – 92 727 Nanterre Cedex, France, is an insurance and reinsurance intermediary that promotes the Network. MAXIS GBN is jointly owned by affiliates of AXA and MLIC and does not issue policies or provide insurance; such activities are carried out by the Members. MAXIS GBN operates in the UK through UK establishment with its registered address at 1st Floor, The Monument Building, 11 Monument Street, London EC3R 8AF, Establishment Number BR018216 and in other European countries on a services basis. MAXIS GBN operates in the U.S. through MetLife Insurance Brokerage, Inc., with its address at 1095 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY, 10036, a NY licensed insurance broker. MLIC is the only Member licensed to transact insurance business in NY. The other Members are not licensed or authorised to do business in NY and the policies and contracts they issue have not been approved by the NY Superintendent of Financial Services, are not protected by the NY state guaranty fund, and are not subject to all of the laws of NY.