The Good & Bad News About Women's Rise in the Workplace

Cornerstone Editors

Women who work have come a long way since the macho, cigar-puffing, strip club-filled ways of "Mad Men." But they still have a lot farther to go.

Women are equally represented in the workforce in terms of their numbers — and, yes, are paid more than they ever have been when compared to men — but young workers still think gender inequality is a major issue in the workplace, according to a Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends survey. Seventy-five percent of Millennial women think more changes are necessary to achieve gender equality in the office, compared to 50 percent of young males.

What changes do Millennial females want to see? More career advancement and more money.

Cracking the Glass Ceiling

Females still struggle to climb the corporate ladder. Just look at Fortune 500 companies: only 4.2 percent of CEOs are female, a figure that hasn't really changed in recent memory. The culprit, according to the study's authors: women are still opting out of their careers in droves to raise children. According to the survey, 51 percent of women said being a working mother made it harder to advance in their careers, whereas only 16 percent of men said the same. What's more, more fathers found that parenthood made career advancement easier (10 percent) compared to mothers (2 percent).

As for compensation, female workers, not surprisingly, want to earn the same wage as their male peers (50 years ago women earned 57 cents for every dollar men pocketed; today it's 77 cents). But one reason for the narrowing disparity: male wages have dropped 4 percent on average for men over the last 30 years while female wages have risen 25 percent.

Why can't women get equal pay for equal work? Education isn't the answer; more Millennial women are enrolled in college and graduating with Bachelor's degrees today than men are. Other unquantifiable factors, according to the survey, include gender stereotypes, discrimination, lack of professional networks and women's resistance to negotiate for promotions. Experts agree these factors likely account for 20 to 40 percent of the earnings gap, according to the survey.

Perception vs. Reality

The study highlights some interesting disconnects. While many women say that men have an unfair advantage when it comes to wages and treatment at the office, only 15 percent say they have been discriminated against based on gender. Also, most men and women say the genders are paid equally for performing the same job — and only one in 10 women say they are paid less than their male peers.

What gives? Why do you think there's such a difference between perception and reality? And what do you think needs to happen before women are truly equal — both in pay and status — in the workplace?

Image via Can Stock Photo

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