#MeToo encouraging for young Canadian females, survey suggests

TORONTO — A majority of Canadian girls and young women have found the #MeToo movement heartening when it comes to the prospects of increased gender equality, but feel they still face discrimination, a new survey suggests.

The online poll of just over 1,000 females aged 14 to 24 also finds about one-third of respondents said they feel less equal than their male counterparts and have less opportunities to lead.

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Plan International Canada, part of a group focused on advancing girls' rights and equality around the world, commissioned the Nanos survey in part to gauge the state of gender equality.

The survey also looked at the effect of the #MeToo movement, which was sparked by the downfall last year of Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul whose alleged abuse of women over decades led to an international debate and backlash over pervasive sexual harassment.

According the poll, 28 per cent of Canadian girls and young woman said #MeToo had made them hopeful about gender equality in the future and another 40 per cent were somewhat hopeful. Only 11 per cent said they were left somewhat or totally pessimistic.

Asked what #MeToo means to them, respondents cited support for victims of sexual harassment and awareness to end such bullying.

More troubling was the indication from the survey that two in three of those asked said they had a friend who had been sexually harassed and that fewer than two in 10 said they felt completely safe in public spaces. Still, most said they do feel safe or somewhat safe when out it in public.

When it comes to gender-based discrimination, seven in 10 females said they had bumped up against the issue even though more than half said they believed they had the same opportunities to lead.

In other findings:

— More than 60 per cent feel an affinity with the feminist movement, while 25 per cent do not feel that way.

— Most say they are more or less optimistic about the future of gender equality at home and abroad.

— Girls 18 to 24 reported lower levels of perceived gender equality and higher levels of discrimination than their younger counterparts.

— About one-third reported feeling occasionally discriminated against because of their gender; the same percentage said they rarely felt that way.

— About one in five said they never felt they were discriminated against.

The poll also indicates that about 37 per cent of Canadian women feel pressure to have a successful career, while just eight per cent report pressure to get married or have kids. About 30 per cent report pressure to do it all: have a successful career as well as get married and have children.

The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

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