Men Could Close the Wage Gap

business man with moneyAccording to a new survey conducted by The Center for American Progress and ELLE magazine, just 20 percent of men think their pay would be affected by the gender-based wage gap if they were women. This, despite a documented 23 percent, on average, gender-based wage gap. This, despite the fact more than 40 percent of the gap is unexplained by career choices, union status, maternity leave or the other oft mentioned reasons for the gap. This despite the fact: the survey revealed:

  •  two-thirds of women and half of men think professional women are scrutinized more harshly than men
  • a mere 7 percent of women said they turned down a new assignment or promotion because they didn’t think they could handle it once they became mothers
  • the percentage difference between men and women who never asked for a raise was only 11 percent.

Out of all of the insights resulting from the survey that examines how women perceive the challenges they face in the workplace, I found men’s feelings about the wage gap to be one of the most interesting. The men polled recognize women face harsher scrutiny on the job and 33 percent of them think women don’t reach the corner office because they are discriminated against. So what makes them think their circumstances would be different if they were women? One has to wonder if deep down, they chalk up the wage gap to some kind of personal weakness on the part of the women who earn less than their fair share. Perhaps they’re thinking that would never happen to them.

While the title of this post was written with some sarcasm, the truth is men can close the gap. Eighty-one percent of men, and 93 percent of women, believe public policy should address workplace challenges including equal pay, paid sick leave, and paid maternity leave. And it’s the men at the top of organizations (after all, men represent 96 percent of Forbes 500 CEOs, 82 percent of Congress, and 85 percent of corporate boards) who can help implement those policies. But the majority of the men surveyed also believe, “the country has made most of the changes needed to give women equal rights as men.” It hasn’t.

Other interesting data points from the survey include:

  • the higher women rise in an organization, the more likely they are to face discrimination
  • 50 percent of dads report leaving work incomplete to deal with family, while only 34 percent of women do
  • women are 33 percent more likely to be called compassionate and men are 233 percent more likely to be called lazy

The survey authors view the results of their research as evidence that women are indeed “leaning in,” not “leaving before they leave,” as Sheryl Sandberg discussed in her book Lean In, and that it is lack of policy that pushes women out of the workforce. This conclusion maps to what I found in writing Mogul, Mom & Maid – women scaling back when forced to “choose” between home-life and work. Too many women are facing gender biases at work, a large workload in the home, too few flex policies and therefore a less than satisfying work life balance, In fact, per the survey, 48 percent of mothers, and 45 percent of fathers, said they wouldn’t work outside the home if they didn’t have to. In a press release about the survey, Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress, said, “Women are striving for leadership, willing to take on new responsibilities. But they continually face hurdles.” Men can help fix that.

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2 comments for “Men Could Close the Wage Gap

  1. Linda G.
    August 21, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Liz – thank you for the continued insightful posts. Keep ‘em coming!

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