New AAUW Poll Shows Big Majorities of Americans Fault Structural Biases for the Pay Gap

March 28, 2019

National polling consistently demonstrates that Americans view the gender pay gap as a problem. Now, a new American Association of University Women (AAUW) survey[1] shows Americans have a clear understanding for the systemic obstacles that contribute to the pay gap:

[1] This national online survey of 1,004 U.S. adults ages 18+ was conducted by Strategies 360 on March 25, 2019. It carries a margin of error ±3.1% at the 95% confidence interval. The margin of error for other subsamples may be higher. The sample was drawn from a listed panel source, and the data reflects the demographic and geographic composition of the national voting-age population.

  • Three-quarters (75%) believe that “When it comes to pay negotiations, men and women are treated differently.”
    • Women are more acutely aware of this dynamic (78%), but men do not question the validity of the sentiment: 71% of men believe the above statement to be true.
    • Younger people (78% under age 35) are slightly more attuned to this issue than their older counterparts (73% age 35 or older). Millennial men (under age 40; 82%) are actually more likely to believe men and women are treated differently during pay negotiations than millennial women (77%).
  • The figure below shows that, by a two-and-a-half-to-one margin, American adults say that biases in the system have more to do with the gender pay gap than the choices women make.
    • While there is a gender gap on this question, men still attribute the pay gap to bias more than choice 53-28% (women: 65-18%). Older men (age 50 and older) land on the side of bias by a 47-32% margin.
    • The gap on this sentiment can be expected to increase over time: while 57% of people age 55+ attribute the pay gap more to bias, that figure rises to 62% among people ages 18-34.

While Americans clearly associate the problem of the gender pay gap with structural obstacles, they remain less acquainted with the ways in which these biases manifest themselves:

  • American adults are unfamiliar with the “mommy penalty” and the “daddy bonus”:
    • Only 32% believe that “Women’s pay decreases once they become mothers”; 47% say this statement is false. Even fewer—22%—believe “Men’s pay increases once they become fathers” to be a true statement (51% false).
      • When it comes to the mommy penalty, even many women remain unaware. Women are split on this question (39% true; 41% false) while just 26% of men think it is a factual statement.
      • Education levels and age cohort are also drivers of response to the mommy penalty question. Thirty-nine percent of people ages 18-34 believe the mommy penalty to be a real thing, versus 31% of those ages 35-54 and 29% age 55 or older. While nearly half (48%) of college-educated women think this is a true statement, that figure drops to 32% of women without a college degree.

The above dynamics help set the context for some of the contributing factors to the gender pay gap:

  • Fifty-two percent of Americans believe that “Men are given better access than women to the training, information, and resources needed to negotiate their pay successfully.” Just a third (33%) disagrees with this statement.
    • Millennial women (63%) are most likely to understand this imbalance of opportunity, compared to 52% of their male counterparts under age 40 who believe the statement to be true.

 

  • Women are less confident than men that their negotiations for higher pay will be successful; accordingly, they are also less likely to have attempted such a negotiation.
    • Sixty-one percent of men are very or somewhat confident that negotiating for higher pay with their employer would lead to a successful outcome, against 53% of women who feel the same way.
      • There is a significant millennial gender gap on this dynamic: 66% of men under age 40 are confident that their negotiation would succeed versus 53% of millennial women. By contrast, this 13-point millennial gender gap is reduced to 6 points among people ages 55 and older.
    • While 54% of men report having negotiated with an employer for higher pay, the same is true for only 47% of women. While college-educated Americans are 7 points more likely to have negotiated their pay than people without a four-year degree, non-college men are just as likely to have done so as college-educated women (49% each).

 

  • Encouragingly, women are beginning to engage in salary transparency activities at a higher rate. Whereas 27% of women ages 50 and older report having discussed or compared their pay with your coworker that number jumps to 35% among millennial women.

[1] This national online survey of 1,004 U.S. adults ages 18+ was conducted by Strategies 360 on March 25, 2019. It carries a margin of error ±3.1% at the 95% confidence interval. The margin of error for other subsamples may be higher. The sample was drawn from a listed panel source, and the data reflects the demographic and geographic composition of the national voting-age population.

Mary Hickey By:   |   March 28, 2019