The majority of the surveys articulate that the women have been facing disadvantages in large numbers in the workplace, including lower pay than men and other forms of discrimination—opinions that haven’t budged during a period when public opinion has shifted markedly on many other social issues, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey shows. Decades after women began flooding into the workforce, majority of women say men are remunerated more for similar tasks, a view put up out by government data but which lures agreement from only two-thirds of men.
More than four in 10 women say they have faced gender discrimination personally, most often in the workplace. Both findings are little changed from a previous survey. But despite the observed challenges in the workplace, a growing number of women say they can strike a balance between professional and personal life. The share who say most women can’t “have it all” without making a lot of sacrifices at work and at home has fallen from 78% to 66% today.
The survey also found wider support for gay marriage and immigration and higher attention to economic pressures—rather than divorce or violence in the media—as the biggest challenges facing families. “It’s very powerful stuff about what is and is not changing in this country,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Fred Yang of Hart Research Associates.
The poll of 1,000 adults, conducted April 5-8, reflects a current robust debate about women in the workforce. Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, is urging them in a new book to “lean in”—to stop holding back their ambitions and to work harder to overcome barriers. In contrast, Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor and former Obama administration official, argued for “Why Women Can’t Have It All” in a magazine article last year. While a majority of respondents in the new survey agreed with Ms.
Slaughter’s assertion, the percentage has fallen over time. Younger women, in particular, are less inclined to agree that they can’t have both a work and home life without making many sacrifices, with 38% of those aged 18-34 saying they disagree with that statement, compared with 31% aged 35-54 and 32% of those older than 55. Men diverge little from women on the ability of women to balance work and home lives, but they are less likely than women to see discrimination in the workplace.
Peter Prichard, 65, who lives in Grass Valley, Calif. , said that in his experience, employers treat women fairly. “I spent almost 20 years working for Hewlett-Packard HPQ +2. 31% . They went overboard, I would say, on making sure there wasn’t discrimination,” said Mr. Prichard, who participated in the poll. Many women offered a different perspective, with 46% saying they’ve experienced discrimination because they’re women, a number that has increased slightly from a 2000 survey. When I was working, I could go to a meeting and offer an opinion, and it was like I didn’t even say a word,” said Christine Dale, 42, who lives in Illinois and participated in the poll. “A guy can offer the same opinion and it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s brilliant. ‘ ” Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that women who work full-time earn 79% of the weekly pay that men bring home. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which tracks the gender wage gap, finds that women’s median earnings lag men’s in almost every occupation.
While the gap narrowed during the 1980s and 1990s, there has been little movement since 2000, said Ariane Hegewisch, the institute’s study director. Support for gay marriage now stands at 53%, up from 49% last March and 30% in 2004, the Journal poll finds. For the first time, pollsters said, the survey found a majority of independent voters saying gays should be allowed to enter into same-sex marriages, with Democrats continuing to support gay marriage in large numbers and Republicans opposing it.
Half of all respondents believe people are born gay, with only 31% saying they choose to be gay. Fifteen years ago, views were split nearly evenly, with 41% saying people are born gay and 38% saying people choose to be gay. The poll found a shift in Americans’ views about whether society should promote traditional values or encourage greater tolerance of people with different lifestyles and backgrounds. Overall, the share saying tolerance is the higher priority has increased during the last 14 years, jumping from 29% in 1999 to 44% today.
But among Republicans, views are nearly unchanged, with 76% saying traditional values are the more important goal in 1999 and 77% supporting that idea today. While the 1999 survey found that families identified a wide range of social and moral issues as serious problems, 84% in the latest poll called economic pressures a very serious or fairly serious problem. Concerns about divorce rates, violent videogames and the declining role of religion have diminished in recent years, the poll showed.
By contrast, the poll found views on abortion remain deep and consistent. Some 52% say abortion should be illegal always or with exceptions, while 45% say abortion should be legal all or most of the time. Those numbers nearly match Journal polls in 2003. Views in the new survey varied by region, with southerners least likely to say that abortion should be legal and those in the Northeast the most supportive of legal abortion.
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