Workplace equality stalls for women

March 27, 2018

More than half of Americans (52%) say that men still do not accept and treat women as equals in the workplace—a plurality that remains virtually unchanged since the poll asked the same question in 1999, based on findings of an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on March 22.

Women are particularly pessimistic, with 61% of  the 1,100 respondents saying that their male counterparts fail to treat them as equals—again, exactly the same share as 19 years ago. What’s more, the same percentage (44%) say they have personally experienced discrimination because of their gender.

The stagnancy of how women view their treatment in the workplace comes as more of them have taken on a role as their household’s primary wage earner. Nearly half of employed women (49%) say that they work primarily because they are their family’s main breadwinner, up from 37% in 2000. That includes 42% of working women with children.

“While Americans have become less judgmental about working mothers, this is a story about taking one step forward and one step back,” says Corrie Hunt of Hart Research, which conducted the poll along with Public Opinion Strategies. “As Americans, we’ve become more willing to say the right things about women in the workplace, but we haven’t put the supports in place to back it up. Our words have not yet been put into actions.”

Perceptions of working women who also are raising children have, indeed, become far more positive in the last two decades. In 2000, just 46% of Americans called it a positive development that more women are working while raising children, while 38%  called it a negative development. Now? An overwhelming majority, nearly eight in 10 (78%) call it positive, and just 14 percent disagree.

However, the pollsters state, there also is a lingering partisan difference in views of how women overall are accepted in the workplace. While only 28% of Democrats say that women are treated as equals in the workplace and 68% disagree, Republicans say that women are treated equally by almost a 20-point margin. Nearly six in 10 Republicans (58 percent) say women are treated as equals by their male counterparts, while 36% disagree.

And there’s also a notable gender gap when it comes to ways that women experience workplace inequality. Majorities of employed men don’t believe that there’s a significant gap in how women are paid, promoted and valued at their workplaces, while employed women are a bit more divided. Only about one in seven men say male workers get promoted more readily than women and get paid more for doing the same work, while about one in three women say the same.

Research contact: contact.nbcnews@nbcuni.com

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