Development Centre

To empower women, face up to restrictive masculinities, says new OECD Development Centre report


Addressing restrictive masculinities is essential to advancing gender equality, therefore we need new ways to identify and measure them, according to Man Enough? Measuring Masculine Norms to Promote Women’s Empowerment. The report was launched today in the framework of the OECD’s March on Gender series of events.


Masculinities are social constructs, shared by both men and women, that relate to perceived notions about how men behave and are expected to behave. Diverse forms of masculinities coexist across cultures, geographical locations and time. As part of social institutions – formal and informal laws, social norms and practices— some masculinities directly hinder women’s empowerment and gender equality.


“Policies and legal frameworks alone cannot break the gender-stereotyping: we must tackle the hidden drivers of gender inequalities. Measuring and exposing restrictive masculinities can transform the way societies approach the systemic challenges facing women” said Juan Yermo, OECD Chief of Staff. “Collecting the right gender-disaggregated data is key to accelerating our efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development”, he added.


The report analyses two different types of masculinities. Restrictive masculinities are rigid and promote inflexible notions and expectations of what it means to be a real man, but gender-equitable masculinities allow men to take on diverse roles and behaviours, while not limiting women’s agency.


Man Enough? identifies ten norms that characterise restrictive masculinities and produce direct consequences for women’s and girls’ empowerment and well-being.


Within the public sphere, especially economic and political, the report singles out five norms that characterise restrictive masculinities and are widely accepted across cultures. A “real” man should:

  • Be the breadwinner, working for pay to provide for the material needs of the household
  • Be financially dominant at work and at home
  • Work in “manly” jobs, those professions that society defines as “men’s work”
  • Be the “ideal worker”, prioritising work over all other aspects of life
  • Be a “manly” leader by cultivating an assertive and space-occupying leadership style


While the domestic sphere has traditionally been treated as the domain of women, restrictive masculinities promote male dominance in the home too. A “real” man should:

  • Not do unpaid care and domestic work, considering this work as generally “women’s work”
  • Have the final say in household decisions, being the one at the top of a hierarchy at home
  • Control and administer household assets specifically productive assets
  • Protect and exercise guardianship of family members especially women and girls within the household
  • Dominate sexual and reproductive choices, initiating sexual encounters and making reproductive decisions


In the economic sphere, for example, these norms undervalue women’s economic contribution and support the view that men’s labour is more important and valuable than theirs. As such, these norms justify women’s exclusion from the labour force, high-status jobs and decision-making positions. In the political sphere, these norms uphold the view that leadership is a masculine characteristic and that men inherently make better leaders than women. In the private sphere, norms defining men’s roles as decision makers minimise women’s and girls’ agency and decision-making power over their time, bodies and resources.


In order to facilitate social transformations towards gender-equitable masculinities, the report proposes to equip policy makers with the ability to measure masculine norms across cultures and geographies. For instance, with the right data, policy makers can better understand the way norms of masculinities are influencing the low uptake of paternity leave. The report puts forward a number of indicators that can be used as proxies to measure and analyse changing masculinities and their impact on women’s empowerment. However, it also underlines that data on masculinities remain unevenly available and incomplete, thus preventing comparisons across countries, regions and time. Man Enough? Measuring Masculine Norms to Promote Women’s Empowerment identifies greater investment in data collection as key to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.


For more information, journalists are invited to contact the OECD Development Centre’s Press office: Bochra Kriout (; Tel.: +33 145 24 82 96).


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