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In U.S., 15% of Women Feel Unfairly Denied a Promotion

In U.S., 15% of Women Feel Unfairly Denied a Promotion

But vast majority do not see gender bias in promotions, raises

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fifteen percent of U.S. working women say they have at some point felt passed over for a promotion or opportunity at work because of their gender, while 85% say they have never felt that way. These perceptions are similar by age, educational attainment, and employment in a professional or non-professional job.

American Women's Perceptions of Gender Bias in Promotions at Work, August 2013

Republican women and conservative women are slightly less likely than all other groups of women to feel they have been passed over for a promotion due to their gender. They are also less likely to have felt gender discrimination in obtaining raises. Liberal women are the only group to perceive more gender discrimination in both promotions and raises than their demographic or socioeconomic counterparts. Together, these findings reveal that there may be some political or ideological issues at play in perceptions of gender fairness in the workplace.

Thirteen percent of U.S. working women say they feel they have been denied a raise due to their gender. But again, the vast majority of working women do not see this as an issue.

These data, from Gallup's annual Work and Education survey, conducted Aug. 7-11, 2013, highlight workplace gender issues that have been feverishly debated recently -- especially in the media. However, the data reveal that most women do not perceive that they have been a victim of gender bias at work when it comes to promotions and raises in particular.

When Gallup asked working men the same questions, they were much less likely to say they felt they were denied a promotion or raise because of their gender. Eight percent of working men feel their gender has prevented them from getting a promotion and 4% believe they have been denied a raise for the same reason. Thus, this phenomenon is something that disproportionately affects women.

All told, 11% of all U.S. workers feel they were passed over for a promotion and 8% denied a raise because of their gender.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" ignited a national conversation this year about how women do and should handle themselves in the workplace -- and the role societal norms play. In her book, she shares insights into why women aren't getting raises and promotions, and advice on how they can achieve their career goals. Women -- and men -- have reacted both negatively and positively to Sandberg's manifesto.

More furor has erupted over the recent New York Times piece on the "opt-out generation" of women -- professionally successful women who chose to leave the workplace in the early 2000s to be home with their children. The author opined on the apparent consequences these women are now facing as they re-enter the workforce -- such as lower salaries and lesser positions.

As the media and Americans in general continue to debate the topic of women in the workplace, Gallup's data show that some women do feel they are facing unfair treatment in the workplace because of their gender, and that gender bias at work, though relatively uncommon in an absolute sense, is more likely to negatively affect working women than working men.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 7-11, 2013, with a random sample of 1,039 adults, aged 18 and older, employed full or part time and living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of workers, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 447 working women, the margin of error is ±5 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 592 working men, the margin of error is ±5 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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