Most People Don't Think There's a Gender Pay Gap at Work

A study shows that the longer men and women are in the workforce, the less they care about working at a company with a gender pay gap.

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 percent of workers felt men and women should be paid equally for equal work, and 60 percent 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 U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. 

Yet despite their strong defense of workplace equality, most survey respondents seemed unconvinced that the pay gap extended to their office: In the U.S., 78 percent of men and 60 percent 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 U.S., 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 percent of U.S. 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 U.S., the percentage of people morally against working at a company with a gender pay gap drops to 68 percent, 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 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 $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," Duffy said. 

To prepare for this landscape, Babson MBAs are required to take a gender acumen course, which 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 Duffy. "That becomes clearer to both men and women the longer they're in the workforce."