American workers are deeply divided about whether women in the workforce continue to face significant barriers to getting ahead, according to a new SurveyMonkey poll of US workers conducted for the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference.
Asked whether significant obstacles still exist for women, 48% of workers say yes, and an identical 48% say no. While a majority of women say big barriers remain; most men do not. It’s a crucial gap that underlies the way people react to ongoing revelations of raft of serious gender issues in the Silicon Valley.
Another major divide emerges between how women, particularly among black women and millennial women, themselves prioritize gender diversity and how much of a priority they perceive it to be at their companies.
Women are nine percentage points more apt to see gender diversity as a personal priority than their company’s priority(46% top priority vs. 37% for company). Black women see an even larger disconnect on the gender front (55% personal priority vs 43% company priority). The mismatch between employees and their companies is highest among millennial women: 53% of women ages 18 to 34 call gender diversity a top priority, while just 41% see their companies as prioritizing the issue
When asked to consider the root cause of the lack of gender diversity in their industries, unconscious bias gets the most mentions (29%). Next up are: pipeline issues (23%), outright sexism (22%), a lack of attention from industry leaders (21%), insufficient role models (19%), lack of diversity in employee networks (15%), and biased interview processes (14%).
For women, age colors perceptions of barriers: Nearly four in 10 (37%) millennial women highlight sexism as a major impediment, something that drops among older women in the workforce (it’s 24% among those ages 35-64 and just 14% among those ages 65 and up). Within the tech space itself, 39% of women say “sexism” a major factor. Just 18% of men in the sector agree.
But is tech different? Most people don’t think so. Fully 57% say women are treated the same in tech compared to other industries, 11% say women are treated better in tech, and 25% say women are treated worse. Once again, men and women don’t totally agree on this point. While most women and men say the tech industry isn’t exceptional on this front, the women who see it as different overwhelmingly see things as worse, not better (31% worse, 7% better).
Within the tech industry, the discrepancy grows: One third of women in the tech industry say they’re treated worse in tech than other industries (36%); half that number of tech men agree (18%). Some 27% of men in tech believe women are treated better in their industry than other sectors, while only 17% of their female peers agree.
Another thing that may hold back change in the workplace is a notion that organizational success depends on a certain je ne sais quoi that can’t be taught. In this survey, that’s the opinion of 41% of white men—higher than it is among white women or black men (33% and 31%). In tech: 42% of men say there is a special-sauce to success; just 25% of women in tech agree.
Methodology: This SurveyMonkey/Fortune online survey was conducted July 3-12, 2017 among a national sample of 13,331 adults ages 18 and up, including 6,349 people working full-time or part-time. Respondents for this survey were selected from the nearly 3 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. “Leaders in technology” data come from a separate survey of attendees of the 2017 Fortune Brainstorm Tech Conference.