Working Women Still Lag Men in Opinion of Workplace Equity

Lydia Saad

Friday, September 18th, 2015

Twelve percent of women say they have been passed over for a promotion or other opportunity because of their gender at some point in their life, similar to the 15% who said this in 2013. By contrast, 5% of employed men, versus 8% two years ago, believe that being male has ever hindered their advancement.


Gallup's Aug. 5-9 Work and Education survey also finds 17% of working women believing they have ever been denied a raise at work because of their gender, within the margin of error of the 13% who said this in 2013. This far exceeds the rate among working men, steady at 4%.


Although the vast majority of men and women believe gender has not been a factor in their ability to advance or to get a raise, 19% of women indicate that at least one of the two types of discrimination has affected them over the course of their working lives, a substantial minority. That compares with 6% of men.

At the same time, equal percentages of men and women say that advancing in their career is extremely or very important to them: 56% of women and 59% of men. However, in a shift from 2013, fewer women today say that career advancement is not important to them, 19% vs. 28%, bringing women into closer alignment with men on this measure.


Women Less Satisfied Than Men With Current Pay

Beyond their lifetime perceptions of being discriminated against for being a woman, the poll also finds working women lagging working men in current satisfaction with their pay: 20% of women vs. 44% of men say they are completely satisfied with the amount they earn. Although working women are slightly less positive than working men about most aspects of their jobs, none of the other differences are statistically significant.


The current gender gap in satisfaction with pay is markedly higher than what Gallup reported a year ago based on combined 2010-2014 data. Thus, it will be important to monitor future updates to determine if this year's result represents a meaningful shift, whether as a result of real changes in the workplace or heightened sensitivity among women about pay.

Bottom Line

Despite numerous policy and cultural efforts in recent decades to break corporate glass ceilings, integrate women in traditionally male-dominated fields and shine a spotlight on pay equity and advancement, a considerable minority of working women report feeling they were discriminated against at some point in their employment history. The trends are not long enough to establish whether the rates are rising or falling, but working women's beliefs about having suffered gender discrimination have neither improved -- nor worsened -- since 2013.

To some extent the male-female differences Gallup sees may be explained by certain fundamental differences in the nature of the work that men and women do. For instance, working women are more likely than working men to be employed part time rather than full time. The women surveyed in this poll are also more likely than men to have white-collar professional or administrative jobs, or to work in a service industry, while men are more likely to be in skilled and unskilled blue-collar jobs.

Regardless, divergent gender perspectives about fairness in advancement and pay could have very real significance when it comes to men's and women's life satisfaction, self-esteem, political orientation and broader worldview -- implications that employers and policymakers can't ignore.