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On Equal Pay Day 2019, lack of awareness persists

On Equal Pay Day 2019, lack of awareness persists

The stubborn gender pay gap -- where women steadily earn about 20 percent less than men -- gets significant attention each year in early April. That’s how far into the year women have to work to make as much as many did the prior year.

But the grim news isn’t sticking: just 62 percent of Americans see the gap in pay, and that’s down from polls over the last two years. Men and younger Americans are the most likely to incorrectly believe that genders are paid equally for similar jobs. Fully half of male millennials think that men and women are paid equally.

Furthermore, Americans, and men in particular, increasingly believe that obstacles that make it harder for women to get ahead are mostly gone. This year nearly half of Americans think obstacles are gone (47%), up from forty four percent last year. Nearly six in ten men (58%) think obstacles for women are gone, up from fifty four percent in 2018.

Some of the apparent lack of awareness is actually disbelief that the pay gap exists. Four in 10 Americans (38%) believe the gender pay gap is made up to serve a political purpose; this idea peaks at 46 percent among men. Furthermore, three in 10 men see reports of the pay gap in the media are overblown (31%), and two in 10 call them “fake news” (21%).

At the same time, Americans are increasingly confident that the pay gap will be eliminated in their lifetime. Sixty-two percent think they will be alive to see it disappear compared with 55 percent in 2018.

While Americans generally agree that companies should do more to reduce the pay gap (73%), and to a lesser extent agree that the government should do more (54%), there is less agreement on the policies that would be helpful to reduce and eliminate the pay gap.

Just over half of the population thinks that it would be helpful to have companies report gender pay statistics to the government (55%), have companies report gender pay statistics to the public (52%) and ban employers from asking previous salary during the interview process (52%).

A different, more grassroots proposal to reduce the gender pay gap is employees banding together to share information about their own salaries and compensation packages which aims to create transparency and give others leverage in salary and promotion negotiations. This appears to be a relatively common practice, as one in three workers (29%) have shared their salary information with coworkers. Furthermore the practice may be worth expanding, as another quarter of workers (24%) have not yet shared their salary information but would be willing to.

While it is the case that nearly half (45%) of working Americans would be unwilling to share salary information, there’s hope for change. This number is only 33% among millennials, and the core reasons that workers state for unwillingness to share compensation information are mainly cultural, citing that it’s unprofessional (66%), none of anyone’s business (55%) or impolite to share (25%).