Unconscious Employer Sexism Still a Problem?

Is the glass ceiling for women still a nearly universal assumption?

"Data seem to show that women are (almost) as likely as men to expect to advance to senior levels during their working careers," Ariane Hegewisch of the Institute for Women's Policy Research told Bloomberg BNA. The barrier to their advancement seems to be more employer expectations than their own, she said.

"Young men and women expect to be able to combine kids with careers, and to have partners that share the childcare work. Yet often fathers find that it is not easy to live up to those expectations—and inadvertently then hold back the careers of their partners when there are children," she said. Hegewisch is program director of employment and earnings at the institute.

But a recent survey by Chicago-based jobs website CareerBuilder shows a gender gap in career and family expectations.

"Men were twice as likely to postpone having children until at least age 35," CareerBuilder said. Thirty percent of men postponed parenthood versus 15 percent of women, according to the poll, which surveyed 2,391 full-time hiring and HR managers and 3,411 full-time private-sector employees. Harris Poll conducted the survey for CareerBuilder Nov. 16 to Dec. 6.

It was striking as well that "44 percent of men said they expect to reach a six figure salary compared to 20 percent of women," according to CareerBuilder.

Other gender differences were less dramatic. For example, 83 percent of women older than 25 who plan to have children said they are postponing starting a family to focus on their career, compared with 79 percent of men in this age bracket.

"We know from our research that there is a difference in what men and women expect from their careers. For example, women expect lower level jobs and lower annual compensation than men," Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder, told Bloomberg BNA.

What, then, should employers do? On this, Haefner and Hegewisch have similar perspectives.,

"To help solve the gender gap issue, employers should encourage women to pursue leadership roles, and take time to discuss career strategies, job satisfaction and overall trajectory," Haefner said. "By mentoring both men and women to reach their career goals, employers will earn trust and loyalty from their workforce, and tap into underutilized employees with high potential."

Said Hegewisch, "This is not just about women, children, and career expectations—it is about making careers and families genuinely a gender-neutral issue—not one with different expectations for male and female employees."

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