Research from the Towards Gender Harmony consortium published in the prestigious Nature Scientific Data


Another publication of research within the Towards Gender Harmony project has occurred in the prestigious journal Nature Scientific Data. The project, headed by dr hab. Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka, prof. UG from the Faculty of Social Sciences, was carried out in 62 countries from all over the world.

More than 160 male and female researchers participated in the research carried out as part of the Towards Gender Harmony project. This international team, led by dr hab. Natasha Kosakowska-Berezecka, prof. UG, analysed contemporary understandings of masculinity and femininity using quantitative and qualitative methods, conducting their research in 62 countries on all continents - the first such extensive and wide-ranging study on this topic in the history of the social sciences.

How are masculinity and femininity defined in different cultures? Most commonly, traits considered masculine are associated with agency and dominance, while we consider traits such as communitarianism as feminine. However, in most cultures, masculinity is something different from being a man - that is, masculinity and being a masculine man have to be earned... and therefore can also be lost. People differ in how much they believe that masculinity needs to be constantly affirmed. These differences are influenced by how a person is brought up and the social environment (family, school, peers) in which he grows up, and later in which environment he functions as an adult man or adult woman (work, own family, friends),’ says project leader dr hab. Natasha Kosakowska-Berezecka, prof. UG.

The research carried out showed that beliefs about threats to masculinity can be deeply rooted in the culture in which a person lives. In countries such as Kosovo, Albania, or Nigeria, the belief that masculinity needs to be constantly proven through strictly defined patterns of behaviour is very much anchored in the minds of citizens. On the other hand, in countries such as Finland, Germany or Spain, masculinity is not as easy to challenge through individual behaviours, expressions or interests. The research also shows that the higher the development index of a country and gender equality, the beliefs that masculinity is threatened and needs to be proven are less intense among both women and men.

It is also important to note that the sense that masculinity needs to be proven may lead men to engage in necessarily unhealthy behaviours to uphold masculine status - we know that a sense of threatened masculinity goes hand in hand in men with increased risk-taking, a tendency to behave aggressively or to advocate armed action. So defining what masculinity is and what can threaten it is important for men's health and quality of life. - Our research also indicates that the sense that masculinity is threatened, occurring as a cultural belief, is associated with many negative consequences for men's health - men in countries with high rates of threatened masculinity die six years earlier than men in countries with low rates of threatened masculinity. Similarly, threatened masculinity promotes risky, health-damaging behaviour. Feelings of insecurity may also be linked to perceptions of gender equality, the researcher adds.

Gender equality in family, social, and working life benefits both men and women. It is associated with greater respect for a country's human rights, higher levels of happiness and well-being and better physical and mental health, as well as greater satisfaction with relationships within the family and economic benefits, including higher average GDP levels.

The study involved more than 33,000 male and female participants from 62 countries - ranging from Norway, which ranks second out of 153 countries in terms of gender equality in the World Economic Forum's 2020 Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI), to Pakistan, which ranked 151st in the index. ‘Our research showed a number of important correlations - for example, we showed that regardless of nationality, the more men believe in 'zero-sum' thinking i.e. recognising that gains for women in the home, business or politics equal losses for men - the less inclined they are to support gender equality and the more likely they are to express attitudes towards women that are indicative of their sexism. This 'zero-sum' thinking, in which gains for women equal losses for men, remains a key barrier to further progress on gender equality. Ironically, the assumption that 'her gain = his gain' is more true and should be promoted as gender equality serves both women and men,’ concludes dr hab. Natasha Kosakowska-Berezecka, prof. UG.

The Towards Gender Harmony consortium is a recognisable group in the international academic community. The scope and momentum of the project, supported by social media and the website(, has made it a long-term and scientifically developing project. It has resulted in 6 articles already published, with a further 3 in the peer-review process and 5 in development, and has also produced 3 master's theses, 2 undergraduate theses and one doctoral thesis in progress. The results of the project have been presented in 22 presentations at international conferences.

At the same time, the project has resulted in the creation of a unique and first-ever database from over 33,000 individuals from around the world, which includes data on their attitudes towards gender, gender roles and gender ideologies, enriched with a range of theoretically relevant demographic data. Once published, this database will be a historically and scientifically significant data source, allowing for the testing of a huge number of hypotheses. Thus, it will have an invaluable impact on the development of cross-cultural social psychology.

Edit. Julia Bereszczyńska/Press Team