Analysis by Plan International on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos suggests that deeply engrained, discriminatory gender norms will continue to hold women back right up to 2030 and beyond.
On the eve of the meeting of political and business leader at the World Economic Forum in Davos, a damning report on gender equality has show that even the world's most egalitarian countries are holding girls and women back.
According to analysis undertaken by the humanitarian organisation Plan International, the exposure of boys and girls across all societies to harmful and disriminatory gender norms - societal attitudes and expectations regarding behaviours, values and future roles - will continue to hold back women right up to 2030 and beyond.
In Germany, for example, which the United Nations' Gender Inequality Index ranks as the fourth best country in the world for sexual equality, a third (32 percent) of men believe that it is justifiable for a man to beat his wife or partner under certain circumstances.
And this is one opinion that transcends gender. In Switzerland, 16 percent and, in the US, 13 percent agree that domestic abuse between a husband and wife can sometimes be justified.
Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, Chief Executive of Plan International, said: “Countries like Germany, Switzerland and the US are in the vanguard for gender equality thanks to their excellent anti-discrimination laws and policies and high female labour-force participation.
"But focusing on these areas is not enough. Even in these countries, girls and women continue to be held back by damaging gender norms."
The report references a number of gender norms prevalent in the world's most gender equal societies.
These include the notion that men should take the lead in sex and relationships and women should be submissive. Plan International suggests that this belief fuels assaults against girls and women.
The percentage of women having experienced physical or sexual violence in Australia, the US and Denmark respectively is 57%, 55% and 50%.
Furthermore, the report says the assumption that men have more right to a job than women often leads to gender gaps in employment rates.
A fifth (20%) of German men still believe that when jobs are scarce, they have more right to a job than women.
Then there is the age-old idea that domestic and care work are the responsibility of women alone. In Belgium, 81% of women do the cooking or household chores every day, compared to just a third (33%) of men.
Add to this the stereotype that technology and science are male-only domains, and a climate of division is created with regards to employment. In Finland, only 23% of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) students are women and in Sweden, women occupy less than a quarter of roles in the information technology, telecoms and STEM sectors.
Albrectsen said: "Women suffer frighteningly high levels of sexual violence, bear the brunt of the domestic work and lag behind boys and men in digital literacy.
“No country will come even close to true gender equality unless they broaden their focus beyond laws, policies and equal access to services and employment to also tackle harmful gender norms.”
Gender norms are often poor in the countries with the best records for gender equality, but they are far worse in the 56 developing countries where Plan International works, according to the NGO.
In 2015, world leaders agreed the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 5: to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” by 2030.
But last year, the gender gap actually widened for the first time since records began, with the estimated time to close the gap rising from 83 years to 100 years.
To combat this, Plan International has called on business leaders attending the World Economic Forum in Davos to put in place a number of policies to help combat gender in equality.
These include investment in initiatives that address harmful gender norms facs by women in different stages of their lives, taking a zero-tolerance stance harassment and gender violence, and rejecting marketing and advertising that uses harmful gender stereotypes.
Albrectsen said: “The private sector has a vital role to play in tackling harmful gender norms. It is only when they work together with civil society, governments and the media to address gender norms that truly transformative change will occur.”