PRINCETON, NJ -- In the U.S., young men and women in the workforce attach similar importance to career advancement, while older men are significantly more likely than older women to say advancement is important. Overall, slightly more than half of all American workers say it is extremely or very important that they advance in their careers over time, with young workers much more likely to say so than those who are older.
These data are from Gallup's annual Work and Education survey, conducted Aug. 7-11, 2013, which found that 15% of women perceive gender bias in the workplace in terms of getting promotions and 13% in regard to raises. The topic of women and work has been a much-debated one recently in the media. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," as evidenced by the title, has been the fulcrum for much discussion about the degree to which women need to manifest a stronger interest in moving forward in their careers.
Across the entire American workforce, 50% of women say career advancement is extremely or very important to them personally, eight points less than the percentage for men. The gender difference in importance of career advancement shrinks to four points among workers younger than 50, while expanding to 13 points among workers 50 and older.
It is not unexpected that younger workers are much more likely than older workers to say it is important that they advance in their careers, given that the former have most of their work life ahead of them, while the latter are closer to the end of their careers, and may perceive that they already have done all the advancing they want to.
Few Differences by Education and Type of Work
Although it might be expected that worker segments with higher levels of education or in professional careers would be most likely to evince interest in advancing in their careers, this is not the case. Americans' education and type of work make almost no difference in the importance they place on career advancement. Employed college graduates are only slightly more likely than college nongraduates to say it is important that they advance in their careers. There are slight variations across workers classified as professional, white collar, and blue collar, but with no consistent pattern.
Working men younger than 50 are only slightly more likely than working women younger than 50 to say career advancement is important to them, suggesting that differences in workplace success between younger men and younger women may not be attributable to a lack of interest in career advancement among the latter group, and that younger working women today may in fact be "leaning in." Of course, this is only one measure of the complex attitudes that drive behavior in the workplace, and additional research is needed.
The fact that the desire to advance does not depend on one's education or general job category shows that the opportunity to advance can be a key motivating and energizing factor among all groups of U.S. workers -- a vital understanding for managers attempting to maximize worker performance.
It is presumably good news for the American economy that younger workers are highly motivated to advance in their careers. The key challenge for American industry is figuring out the best way to make this apparent energy and desire to get ahead a reality. This in turn could depend on management's ability to create a sense of employee engagement that research shows is highly correlated with overall company success.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.