Exclusive: This Is What Working Women Want Even More Than Equal Pay

August 8, 2016, 11:25 AM UTC
Business woman looking out window
Photograph by Ryan McVay via Getty Images

Women can encounter all kinds of slights in the workplace, from getting stuck with coffee runs and other “office housework” to bringing home smaller paychecks than their male counterparts. But there’s one inequity that seems to jump out more than any other: being passed over for promotion.

In a survey released Monday, career site Fairygodboss asked 1,613 women whether they think their employer treats men and women equally. While a slight majority said yes, 44% reported that they believe that some gender discrimination does go on at their company. And when those women were asked about the source of the inequity, nearly 80% said the biggest problem is the way promotions are doled out.

Unequal pay was the next most common response (62%), followed by evaluation and reviews (43%), and hiring (27%).

Georgene Huang, co-founder and CEO of Fairygodboss, says that she suspects that promotions rose to the top of list for one reason: visibility. While it can be difficult to suss out how much your co-workers are being paid or to know exactly what goes on in someone else’s review, it’s easy to see who is being promoted. It’s also easy to see how many women hold leadership roles at your company—and to infer what that could mean for your own career.

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“If you can see, my boss isn’t a woman, and my boss’s boss isn’t a woman,” says Huang, it’s not hard to conclude that “something is out of wack.”

Hiring, she notes, is the least popular response. Companies struggling with diversity issues often point to a “pipeline problem,” says Huang. “But it doesn’t seem like these women feel that that’s where the issue is.”


Fairygodboss also asked respondents to identify one thing that their employer could do to make them more likely to stay with the company. “Increase my pay,” was a popular choice (23%), as was promote more women into leadership (21%). Interestingly, “improve work-life balance/policies” came in dead last—4%.

However, it’s worth noting that 30% of respondents dismissed the multiple choice answers provided by the survey, instead opting to fill in their own personalized responses.

Huang, who read these “write-in” answers, says most are specific to individual employers’ management and corporate culture issues.

The disparity in these answers is a reminder that there is no one single thing that employers can do to insure that they’ll hold on to their female employees, says Huang: “Women leave companies for all kinds of reasons.”


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