Employers and The Perception Gap

Survey Reveals Gender Views of Equal Opportunities in the Workplace

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | October 27, 2016

New data from a survey by PayScale, Inc., addresses male and female perspectives on gender equity and equal opportunity in the workplace. This information seems to confirm that there is a “perception gap” between the sexes, especially in male-dominated fields such as the tech industry.

Could this gap be the result of the “Lake Wobegon Effect?” Lake Wobegon is the name of Garrison Keillor’s imaginary town “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

PayScale surveyed 140,000 people who took the employee survey online with two statements and asking them to what extent they agreed or disagreed with each one.

The two statements were:
In most workplaces, men and women have equal opportunities.
In my workplace, men and women have equal opportunities.

According to a PayScale press release, the results of the survey were broken out by all respondents and by responding tech workers. The responses highlighted a difference of opinion between males and females.

For all workers:
67% of male workers say men and women have equal opportunities in most workplaces.
38% of female workers say men and women have equal opportunities in most workplaces.
75% of male workers say men and women have equal opportunities at their workplace.
51% of female workers say men and women have equal opportunities at their workplace.

For tech workers:
66% of male tech workers say men and women have equal opportunities in most workplaces.
30% of female tech workers say men and women have equal opportunities in most workplaces.
80% of male tech workers say men and women have equal opportunities at their workplace.
44% of female tech workers say men and women have equal opportunities at their workplace.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt, in a blog for Payscale explains, “The fact that three-quarters of men say there’s equal opportunity for men and women in their workplace, but only about half of women say the same indicate a perception gap between the sexes.” This perception gap is even worse at tech companies, with 80% of men—but only 44% of women—saying that women have equal opportunities at their employer!

Think about it. Only 25% of male workers believe that men and women are not treated equally at their workplace.

Psychologists recognize this effect as a willingness to identify inequities as a broad and pervasive problem, yet deny that the same inequities occur in our own environment (such as our workplaces). Unfortunately, that’s exactly what many do because it is hard to confront the fact that we may be part of a workplace that perpetuates inequality in the treatment of women.

“Unconscious bias is a more insidious cause of gender inequity at work than overt prejudice, precisely because we’re not aware of having it.” says Luckwaldt.

Matt Wallaert, behavioral scientist and founder of GetRaised.com writes, “If this data highlights anything, it is that men need to step up to the plate. We benefit from the system of inequity, we hold a positions of privilege, and far too many of us are blind to the fact that this is a problem that occurs within our sphere of control.” He adds, “This isn’t some vague social problem: every man, in every workplace, has the power to make that workplace more equitable. The women are leaning in: it is our turn to do the hard work of change.”

David Cox

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