Most Americans Believe Gender Pay Gap Is Due to Bias

April 01, 2019

A new poll from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) shows that most Americans believe systematic barriers are to blame for the gender pay gap, in which women working full-time earn 80 cents for every dollar men make, on average. Fifty-nine percent say the discrepancy in pay between the genders is more due to biases than the choices women make, and 75 percent think men and women are treated differently in salary negotiations.

“People of all ages, across all demographics, are well aware that women still face barriers and biases in the workplace,” says Kim Churches, chief executive officer of AAUW. “Most Americans find this unacceptable, and that’s why there is so much momentum toward policies and practices to close the gender pay gap.”

For example, Churches believes the time is right to finally enact the Paycheck Fairness Act, which the U.S. House of Representatives last week voted 242 to 187 to pass with bipartisan support. Leaders of state and local governments are also taking action. Forty-one states have introduced fair-pay legislation, and cities and counties in over a dozen jurisdictions have enacted bans on the use of salary history in hiring within the last few years.

Parental Influences

Although both men and women say the gender pay gap stems more from bias than individual choices, women are more likely to hold that belief (65 percent of women versus 53 percent of men), according to the poll, a national online survey of 1,004 U.S. adults aged 18 and older. Only 23 percent of Americans say the pay gap is the result of women’s choices.

In many cases, women face negative consequences for their choices that men do not. For example, U.S. Census labor data show that women’s earnings decline after they have children, a phenomenon referred to as the “motherhood penalty.” By contrast, men don’t experience a drop in drop in pay when they become fathers; in fact, many receive higher wages—the so-called “fatherhood bonus.”

Yet the poll found only 32 percent of Americans believe women’s pay decreases once they become mothers, and 22 percent thought men’s pay rose when they become fathers, despite the data showing otherwise.

Money Talk

Other findings from the poll:

  • 57 percent of Americans reported they have or would discuss their pay with coworkers. Salary transparency is thought to be key to closing the pay gap.
  • Millennials and Gen Zers are more likely to talk about their salary with coworkers than those from older generations (68 percent, compared to 55 percent of Generation X and 49 percent of Baby Boomers).
  • 51 percent of Americans have negotiated for higher pay, with men negotiating slightly more than women (54 percent compared to 47 percent).
  • Men are more confident in negotiating for salaries (61 percent) compared to women (53 percent).
  • 52 percent of Americans believe men are given better access than women to the training, information and resources needed to negotiate their pay successfully.

To bolster women’s skills and confidence when negotiating, AAUW is training millions of women to ask for higher pay and benefits through its Work Smart program, which offers both in-person workshops and a free virtual course. It’s one of the many ways the organization is working to close the pay gap, in addition to advocating for strong policies and working with employers to promote fair-pay practices.

“Given the national dialogue on equity issues in the workplace, I’m confident that we’re seeing a significant culture shift and that before too long, Equal Pay Day will be history,” says Churches.

Christina Folz By:   |   April 01, 2019