Men Are Totally Clueless About Their Female Co-Workers

You cannot fix a problem if you don’t know it exists.

Glass ceiling? I don’t see any glass ceiling…

This seems to be the mentality of the vast majority of male employees when it comes to gender-based discrimination in the workplace, according to a new PayScale survey. Despite this oversight, women are still earning 15% to 20% less than their male coworkers.

The PayScale survey studied 140,000 people from a wide array of varied industries and found that 67% of men believe that in most workplaces “men and women have equal opportunities.” However, only 38% of women were in agreement. The results were even more skewed for jobs related to technology—a field commonly scrutinized for its treatment of women—as they found 66% of men in tech positions say there is equal opportunity in most workplaces, yet just 30% of women in tech do.

“There’s clearly a difference in perception,” says Aubrey Bach, a senior manager at PayScale, a Seattle-based provider of compensation data. “Men don’t think inequity is an issue.”

On the contrary, reality would say it is.

Apart from the estimated 79 cents to a dollar that women earn compared to their male counterparts, research by Michelle Budig, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, shows that when families have children, fathers get a wage bonus; mothers suffer a wage penalty.

What makes this failure to recognize even more frustrating is that there is so much information out there. ““It’s those in the tech industry, which thinks of itself as full of logical and data-driven engineers, who are most likely to say sexism isn’t a problem in their workplace,” says Matt Walleart, co-founder of, a free service that helps women obtain higher pay. “That’s just amazing. There is a real need for men to step up to the plate.”

Of course, we’ve made major progress since the 1950s and ‘60s, the “Mad Men” era in which women were just beginning to enter the labor force in larger numbers, most often restricted to clerical work. Back then, it was not at all uncommon for big employers to focus on a woman’s appearance rather than skill set.

Perhaps part of the reason that men are largely blind to gender bias in the workplace is that, all in all, it’s not nearly as blatant as it was in the 1950s and ’60s, when the ranks of women entering the labor force began to swell. Back then, it wasn’t uncommon for major employers to focus on a woman’s appearance, not her aptitude. “This winsome lass is Carol Goff, a clerk-typist in shipping,” General Electric’s distribution transformer department in Oakland, Calif., announced in the “Who’s New” section of its internal newsletter in late 1961. “Another pretty lil’ gal, Joyce A. Tate, is our new mail girl.”

“Companies play hot potato with the issue,” says Liz Morgan, who is in charge of recruiting Bay Area engineering leaders at LinkedIn. “They usually look to HR and recruiting to fix the problem by increasing the talent pipeline with more female candidates and conducting unconscious-bias training. It’s a good start, but more needs to be done.”

Instead, Morgan advises that companies take a number of specific steps, such as including making transparent hiring, compensation, turnover, and retention data, as well as “holding management accountable” when there are inconsistencies between the genders. She also recommends that companies institute “the Rooney Rule,” which would require that they interview women for organization positions.

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