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Most people don't think there's a gender pay gap at work

Thursday, February 11, 2016 - 14:02
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It will take 118 years to close the gender pay gap in the workplace, the World Economic Forum predicted last year. Despite its documented existence, however, most American workers don't notice the difference between what men and women make, new research shows.

[NEW YORK] It will take 118 years to close the gender pay gap in the workplace, the World Economic Forum predicted last year. Despite its documented existence, however, most American workers don't notice the difference between what men and women make, new research shows. 

A report released Thursday by salary and employment website Glassdoor found 89 per cent of workers felt men and women should be paid equally for equal work, and 60 per cent said they would not apply for a job at a company if they believed gender compensation was unfair.

The website surveyed 8,254 full-time and part-time employees in the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. 

Yet despite their strong defence of workplace equality, most survey respondents seemed unconvinced that the pay gap extended to their office: In the US, 78 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women felt their workplace paid men and women equally, Glassdoor found.

"The challenge of changing the gender pay gap is that people don't think they've experienced it firsthand," said Susan Duffy, executive director for the Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College.

In the US, the average woman makes 79¢ for every dollar earned by a man.  The study shows that employees in different age groups think differently about the gender pay gap.

Eighty-one per cent of US employees between the ages of 18 to 24 would not consider working at a company with a known gender bias, which is the same for young millennials in most of the other countries surveyed.

But after age 24, employees are a lot less idealistic. In the US, the percentage of people morally against working at a company with a gender pay gap drops to 68 per cent, said the report.

People aged 45 and older are the most complacent: Only 13 percent would turn down a job at a place with a gender pay gap. "When you have a mortgage and a family, a job is a job," said Ms Duffy, "So it really falls on the companies themselves to change the status quo." 

Some companies are making public strides toward equality.

Last year, Intel Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich pledged US$300 million toward achieving gender and racial parity in its workplace. This month, the computer technology company claimed it erased the gender pay gap for its employees. 

"By not addressing the pay gap, companies are unconsciously condoning a bias that could be harming their bottom line and the people that work for them," Ms Duffy said. 

To prepare for this landscape, Babson MBAs are required to take a gender acumen course, which Ms Duffy teaches to make both sexes more gender-literate and understand that the gender pay gap is propelled by both men and women. "Unconscious bias is a human issue, not a gender issue," said Ms Duffy. "That becomes clearer to both men and women the longer they're in the workforce." 

BLOOMBERG