discrimination men women salary wages

Underestimating Gender Inequality Helps Perpetuate It, a New Study Suggests

Clément Fournier - Editor in Chief

Trained at Sciences Po Bordeaux and at Mines ParisTECH in social, environmental and economic issues, Clément has been editor-in-chief of Youmatter since 2015.

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A recent study suggests that managers who underestimate the existence of gender discrimination are more likely to perpetuate it.

In the world of work, as well as in daily life, women are still victims of significant discrimination. In terms of salary, career progression, judgments and even hiring chances – women are still, and despite the progress achieved in some areas, worse off than men.

However, a certain number of managers tend to underestimate these inequalities and to think that they are more or less resolved. A study published by researchers from the University of Exeter and Skidmore College shows that this attitude could contribute, paradoxically or ironically, to reinforcing discrimination against women. Further explanations ahead.

Those Underestimating Gender Discrimination Are the Ones Practising It

The study sought to assess the perceptions and attitudes of managers towards gender inequalities in the veterinary professions. To do this, a panel of managers in this sector was questioned about their perceptions of gender inequalities. In particular, they were asked how they felt women suffered discrimination at work.

In total, almost 45% of those polled believed that today women no longer really suffer from discrimination. 40% believed that women are still suffering from discrimination these days. And 15% did not comment.

The study’s participants were then subjected to a test during which they were asked to assess the professional profile of a candidate in their area of ​​expertise and to assess the salary at which this candidate could be paid. Each participant had to assess the same profile (same experiences, same skills, same CV or application file) with only one changing parameter: the name. Some candidates evaluated a profile on behalf of Elizabeth, while others evaluated a profile on behalf of Mark.

The result: managers who had considered gender discrimination doesn’t exist tend to better value the profile of male candidates, despite all conditions being the same – apart from the name.

A Wage Gap Perpetuated by Those Who Don’t Believe It

Those who underestimate discrimination against women would also tend to overestimate the salary adapted to a male profile compared to a female profile. Thus, the average recommendation of these participants for the salary of the male profile was almost 3000 euros higher per year than for the female profile. 

This suggests that the simple fact of being a man favors access to higher wages, especially when dealing with managers who tend to deny the existence of gender inequalities. This gender wage gap roughly corresponds to an eight percent observed between men and women in the profession.

On the contrary, in the group of managers who declared that women still suffered from numerous forms of discrimination, there was no tendency to overstate the male profile’s salaries. On the contrary: the salary recommendation was very slightly higher (but not significant, 300 euros more per year) for women.

The Men Women Inequality Gap: the Need for Greater Awareness

This study illustrates (among other things) that managers who are least aware of the existence of discrimination seem to be those who perpetuate it the most (difficult to say however in which direction the correlation operates).

Hence the need to continue the educational efforts for professionals, to recall that yes, even today, women suffer discrimination (unconscious or not) in the world of work.

Photo by Craig Ren on Unsplash

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