Considerable minority of working women report gender discrimination

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Female equalityWhether the new Shadow Cabinet is or isn’t representative of women (there are no women in senior roles on the Labour front bench, but half of the total posts went to women) was a major talking point about the new Labour Party line-up yesterday. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, 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 have been discriminated against at some point in their career. Gallup’s Work and Education survey found 17 percent of working women believed they had been denied a raise at work because of their gender and 12 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.

This far exceeds the rate among working men, at 4 percent and just 5 percent of employed men, versus 8 percent two years ago, believe that being male has ever hindered their advancement.

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 percent 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 percent of men.

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. Twenty percent of women vs. 44 percent 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.

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.