Sep 27, 2023 - Economy

Huge gender gaps remain in views of barriers women face at work: study

Select obstacles preventing women from reaching executive positions at work
Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans are still very far apart in their perceptions of barriers that women face in moving up in the workplace, new research from Pew Research reveals.

Driving the news: 55% of those surveyed in July this year say there are too few women in top executive business positions.

  • Of those, 79% say it would be ideal to have the same number of women and men in those roles.

When asked why there aren't more women at the top:

  • 58% say women have to do more to prove themselves
  • 50% say women in business face gender discrimination
  • 48% say family responsibilities make it harder for women to move up

But when looking at results based on the gender and political affiliation of the responder, clear trends emerge.

  • Women, by large margins, were more likely than men to see nearly all of the potential obstacles presented in the survey as "major reasons" for the lack of women at the top.
  • And Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to see a variety of factors as serious challenges.

What they're saying: "A lot of women have experienced these [issues] so they can extrapolate that to the experiences of women in even more powerful positions," Juliana Horowitz, Pew's associate director of research, tells Axios.

  • The results "also reflect broader views about the state of gender equality in the country," where Republican men and women "tend to think that things are where they should be."

Of note: Compared to results from the study in 2018, there's very little difference.

  • 59% of those surveyed five years ago said there were too few women in top executive business positions, four percentage points higher than today.
  • 60% at the time agreed that "women have to do more to prove themselves than men," compared to the 58% today.
  • And three more percentage points (74%) of women at the time agreed their "having to do more to prove themselves" was a major reason there weren't more women in top positions, compared to 45% (two more percentage points) of men.

The intrigue: The share of women CEOs in Fortune 500 companies has risen from 4.8% in 2018 to a record 10.6% in 2023.

  • The share of women Fortune 500 board members grew from 22.5% in 2018 to 30.4% in 2022.

Our thought bubble: How much more would these numbers have grown if more people were aligned on the perceived issues?

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