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RELEASE: Survey Finds Women Don’t Believe They Are to Blame for Workplace Challenges, Men and Women Support Policy Solutions

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Contact: Madeline Meth
Phone: 202.741.6277
Email: mmeth@americanprogress.org

Washington, D.C. — Today the Center for American Progress and ELLE released a new survey that unpacks what professional men and women think about “leaning in.” The survey tests how women perceive the challenges they face in the workplace and examines support for the policy changes that could improve everyone’s ability to balance work and life.

Many of the results told a surprising story about the way women perceive the obstacles they face in the workplace. The data countered the narrative that women aren’t sitting at the table, that they’re “leaving before they leave,” and that they tend to pull the ladder up behind them:

  • There’s an expectation that women go mute around a conference table, but the data found that more than half of women say they speak up frequently in meetings.
  • If women are worried about the challenges they will face once they become mothers, they aren’t letting this pressure them to take a step back at work before they have kids. Only 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, and only 14 percent of mothers think their bosses give them less responsibility out of concern that they’re too busy with their families.
  • There’s a persistent myth that women are judgmental of each other’s choices and that they don’t help each other enough, but nearly two-thirds of respondents thought that “women are supportive of other women’s choices.”

“The survey results indicate women are leaning in; it’s the lack of policy support that’s pushing them out,” said Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress. “Women are striving for leadership, willing to take on new responsibilities. But they continually face hurdles. Fortunately, there is a overwhelming bipartisan support—including a strong majority of Republicans—who support policies like paid family leave to help women overcome those hurdles and help erase the leadership gap that is still so pervasive.”

According to the survey, everybody supports the idea that women shouldn’t have to address the challenges they face on their own. Both men and women believe that public policies can help knock down the barriers that make closing the leadership gap a struggle. More than 80 percent of respondents across all categories—men, women, Democrats, and Republicans—said public policy should address workplace challenges such as equal pay, paid sick leave, and paid maternity leave. A whopping 87 percent of women and 80 percent of men support paid family leave.

While many of the survey’s results were surprisingly positive, others reinforced the idea that our culture and our policies must change if women are to achieve equality in the workplace:  

  • Nearly 30 percent of women report experiencing discrimination in the workplace, and the higher women rise, the more likely they are to face discrimination.
  • Shockingly, one in three respondents who hold leadership positions—regardless of their gender—admitted that they think one of the reasons women don’t occupy top jobs in business is because they aren’t “tough enough.”
  • Although 81 percent of men said public policies had a role to play in addressing the workplace challenges, a majority of men also said the country has made the most of the changes necessary to give women equal rights as men.
  • More than 50 percent of women have never asked for a raise, compared to 40 percent of men. But when women do ask, only 11 percent are denied a raise.
  • Two-thirds of women and half of men think professional women are scrutinized more harshly than men.

Related resources:

To speak with experts on this issue, please contact Madeline Meth at mmeth@americanprogress.org or 202.741.6277.

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