Washrooms: Gender Differences

Our survey was gender balanced with a response rate of 51% women and 49% men. But as the results of the poll reveal people’s attitudes were found to be split along very clear gender dividing lines.

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It’s women who overwhelmingly believe all toilets outside their home are unhygienic; 72% of women believe this compared to 64% of men. The trend continues when respondents were asked whether they would touch the surfaces of bathrooms outside their homes. A third of women (32%) said they were very likely to not want to touch anything, compared to 26% of men. More women also say their loos lack facilities - e.g. paper/soap (60% vs 47%); while – perhaps unsurprisingly – there is also a substantial variation between women and men when it comes to desire for hands-free flushing: 69% of women want it, compared to 53% from men. Men, it seems, are much less bothered about grime.

Gender differences can also be seen in terms of the function a restroom needs to perform in different users’ eyes. Women (44% vs 31% men) regard a restroom’s job as being ‘to provide a space to go to go to the toilet and feel at ease’. So strong is this feeling that two-thirds (66%) of women claim to have ‘cleaned up’ (i.e. wiped the seat, flushed the pan, etc.) before using it – something only 53% of men have done. That said, 75% of women wouldn’t even get that far, saying seeing dirt would actually put them off using a toilet in the first place.

It’s clear women see loos as more of a sanctuary. Women spend significantly longer there (40% for 1-2 minutes, a further 22% spent 3-4 minutes), while 41% of men are in and out in under 30 seconds flat. Perhaps women have stronger feelings because of their usage of public toilets - more women than men admit to getting caught short while out.

However, some gender differences aren’t always so obvious. More men (nearly double) actually say they’re unhappy with the cleanliness of their work loos (11% vs 7% of women); the workplace is one of just two venues out of 13 where men register more disgust with dirt than women. More men than women (35% vs 29%) also registered a lack of hand washing.

What’s clear though is that female desire for a place of safety is bad news for the gender-neutral debate. Some 67% of women in the workplace say they prefer a gender specific loo (vs 53% of men). A third of women say they’d feel very awkward sharing a unisex toilet with their colleagues/ bosses, whereas only 20% of men would. So strong is the female view of unisex loos that nearly twice as many women (18% vs 10%) would actually try to use the toilet less if their workplace installed unisex bathrooms.

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