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Men Underestimate Workplace Gender Inequity

Topics: Data & Research
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Despite the fact that women have been earning more college degrees than men for over 30 years, women still make up just 21 percent of C-suite level executives, according to the report, Women In The Workplace 2017, from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company.

This study explores survey results from 70,000 corporate employees across the U.S., as well as employee pipeline data from 222 companies employing more than 12 million people. The report makes it clear that major issues around gender equity still exist. Further, many men seem to underestimate the way these issues impact their coworkers and their company.

The Opportunity Gap Widens Over Time

Companies hire fewer women than men for entry-level positions, despite the face that women account for 57 percent of recent college graduates. Thirty-one percent of entry-level jobs are filled by white women and 17 percent are filled by women of color.

The problem gets much worse as employees progress up the ranks. At the senior manager/director level, 26 percent of the jobs are filled by white women and 8 percent by women of color. White men account for 54 percent of these positions.

Finally, at the highest tier, women of color make up just 3 percent of the professionals holding C-suite positions and white women account for just 18 percent of those roles. Men of color fill these roles at a rate of 12 percent. White men dominate these jobs, occupying 67 percent.

This dovetails with PayScale’s data, which show that men are 85 percent more likely than women to be VPs or C-suite execs by mid-career.

“Choice” Can’t Explain Away These Inequities

The popular myth is that women earn less than men because they opt into lower paying occupations, don’t negotiate salary and choose not to seek promotion. But this report shows that women’s behavior isn’t to blame for inequity.

Women and men say they plan to leave their companies at roughly the same rate. Seventy-three percent of women and 74 percent of men say they plan to stay with their company for at least the next two years. Among those who do intend to leave, 72 percent of women and 73 percent of men plan to do so in order to take a role at another company. Only 2 percent of women and 1 percent of men say they intend to leave the workforce to focus on family.

Still, entry-level women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male peers. It’s not for lack of asking. This research determined that women negotiate at rates comparable to men. But, they are more likely to receive feedback that they are “intimidating” “aggressive” or “too bossy” when they do.

Women Are Less Optimistic That They Can Reach the Top

Women are less likely to feel optimistic about their chances of becoming a top executive than men. The women who do aspire toward these jobs are less likely to believe they’ll make it than men with the same goals — and for good reason. They can see the current gender breakdown in these roles.

This research found that they also experience less support than their male coworkers. Women are less likely to receive advice from leaders and executives about how to advance. Employees who had received this kind of guidance were more likely to say they’d been promoted within the last two years.

Similarly, women were less likely to interact with senior leaders than men. Researchers found that these interactions positively impacted an employee’s ambition to move into one of those roles themselves.

Men underestimate gender equality issues

Men were far more likely to see gender diversity at their workplace in a positive light than their female coworkers. These discrepancies demonstrate that many still don’t fully understand the way gender impacts promotion and achievement.

  • 47 percent of men said that “the best opportunities go to the most deserving employees”; 39 percent of women agreed
  • 48 percent of men compared with 40 percent of women said that “promotions at this company are based on fair and objective criteria”
  • 63 percent of men agreed that “my company is doing what it takes to improve gender diversity”; only 49 percent of women concurred
  • 45 percent of men compared with 32 percent of women felt that “managers make sure a diversity of voices is represented in decision-making”
  • Nearly 50 percent of men feel that women are well represented in leadership roles in organizations where women account for only one in 10 members of senior leadership

The report states:

One obstacle companies face in their efforts to advance gender diversity is that more than half of all men do not prioritize the issue. But there’s good news: there are things organizations can do that can significantly impact the way men think about gender in the workplace. When direct managers place a high priority on gender diversity, employees are more likely to be committed themselves—and this is especially true for men. And when managers and senior leaders offer guidance on how to improve gender diversity, so that it goes from a general policy to something more concrete and actionable, men are more likely to get on board.

The report’s authors offer recommendations for using these results to improve gender and racial diversity, including making a compelling case for gender diversity, investing in employee training and ensuring that the hiring and review processes are fair.

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