Should awards scrap male and female categories and be gender-neutral only?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
November 30, 2021, 9:43 AM GMT+0

People tend to think gender-neutral sportsperson awards would lead to more male winners

The BRIT Awards have announced the removal of separate male and female categories from its best solo and best international acts. The prizes will be replaced with new awards for “Artist of the Year” and “International Artist of the Year”, with a single winner for each. The move towards gender-neutral awards follows last year’s controversy when Sam Smith, who identifies as non-binary, was not eligible for the gender-categorised awards.

Britons tend to agree that music awards should ditch their separate categories for men and women (47%) in favour of combined prizes – with no difference between male and female opinion on this subject. Around a third (36%) of people think music prizes should retain male and female categories.

Of all the types of awards asked about, the only one Britons generally think should remain gender-segregated is sportsperson awards (55%) – with men and women again in agreement. Some three in ten people (29%) think sporting prizes should have combined awards regardless of gender.

Nearly all major literary awards like the Booker Prize already are already open to people of any gender – something six in ten people agree with (60%). However, some 23% think there should be different categories for male and female authors.

The Nobel Academy recently announced it will not change the Noble Prize awards to have separate categories for women and men, despite a low number of female winners. Approaching two-thirds of Britons agree that both scientific/research awards (64%) and humanitarian awards (also 64%) should have combined prizes with a single winner regardless of gender. Only 20% in each case think these awards should separate out winners into male and female categories.

Would gender-neutral awards lead to more male winners?

When MTV introduced gender-neutral awards in 2017, there were some fears it would lead to male candidates winning a disproportionate number of prizes compared to women. Britons tend to think this would be true for sportsperson awards that opt for gender-neutral prizes (48%). Another 21% think the number of male and female winners wouldn’t change if sportsperson awards were gender-neutral.

Opinion is split over how gender-neutral awards would change scientific and research awards – 35% think it would mean more male winners overall, and 31% think it wouldn’t change the balance. Only 3% say it would lead to more female winners.

People tend to think there would be around the same number of male and female winners if creative prizes such as acting awards (36%) and music awards (38%) changed to gender-neutral prizes, while 41% think the same of literary awards.

See full results here