HR Managers Admit There’s A Wage Gap In Their Companies

New survey finds that HR knows that men and women aren’t being paid equally for the same work within their companies.

HR Managers Admit There’s A Wage Gap In Their Companies
[Photo: LOFTFLOW via Shutterstock]

As many as 1 in 5 Human Resource managers tell CareerBuilder that women at their companies earn less than men for doing the same work.


The new survey, conducted by Harris Poll for CareerBuilder, polled in excess of 3,200 full-time U.S. workers and more than 220 human resource managers in the private sector across industries nationwide.

Overall, the survey revealed that more than half of workers (55%) do not believe men and women are paid equally for doing the same jobs. Only 35% of female workers even believe there is equal pay in the workplace as opposed to 56% of men.

Fifty one percent of all workers surveyed admit they don’t believe men and women are given the same opportunities to advance their careers. Only 39% of women surveyed believe that there are equal opportunities to advance, compared to 60% of men.


This despite evidence from DDI which indicates men and women score nearly equally in their ability to drive business. That same DDI report found that fewer women are able to get beyond lower levels of leadership.

Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, tells Fast Company that it’s hard to point to only one reason that the wage gap is still persisting despite this new evidence. “Employers may not even be aware of the disparity or they may choose to ignore it,” she says. “Also, while this shifting, women are still more likely to take career interruptions to care for their family,” Haefner says, “And research shows that these types of interruptions can have an impact on long-term earnings. Another factor can be the “ask gap”— men are more likely than woman to ask for a raise, and this can have a snowball effect.”

Climbing the Ladder

Part of the reason for the lack of ascendence may be that CareerBuilder found women are reluctant to take the step up. Sixty five percent of women admit they don’t aspire to a leadership position versus a slightly lower 58% of men. And only 19% of women surveyed say they want to step into their boss’ role versus 27% of men.


A recent Harvard study suggests that the disparity in leadership may be due to women being more cautious about taking a promotion and the McKinsey/ report that revealed an aspiration gap between men and women.

Those just entering the workforce and through middle management are nearly equal in their ambition to climb the career ladder. The difference between the genders comes when aspiring to the top spot. At every stage of their careers, women are less eager than men to become top executives. This gap is widest at the senior management level, according to the McKinsey/ report.

Comparing Compensation

The lack of opportunity to advance plays out as a widening gulf in compensation. When CareerBuilder analyzed responses that discussed salaries among those surveyed, one clear trend emerged: men are almost three times more likely to earn a six-figure paycheck than women and twice as likely to earn $50,000 or more.


Earn less than $35,000
Men: 23%
Women: 47%

Earn $50,000 or more
Men: 49%
Women: 25%

Earn $100,000 or more
Men: 14%
Women: 5%


To this Haefner says, “Gender discrimination is still at play in certain situations. Sometimes, even controlling for things like educational attainment, number of hours worked and occupation, women continue to make less than their male colleagues.”

A study from the University of California at Berkeley found that even if a woman is in a managerial role, it doesn’t help boost the salary of her female reports.

Generation Gap

Younger workers are more likely to believe men and women are on equal footing in the workplace:

  • 18-24: 61% said yes
  • 25-34: 50% said yes
  • 35-44: 40% said yes
  • 45-54: 46% said yes
  • 55+: 46% said yes

Equally Satisfied

Looking for equity in any area, the analysts found it in job satisfaction. Both men and women square on this point with 64% of women reporting they’re satisfied or very satisfied with their job overall and 63% of men saying the same.

What made up a satisfying experience at work touched several different themes, but overall men and women were in close agreement in their responses. According to the CareerBuilder survey these were the key ingredients for job satisfaction in order of importance:

  1. Liking the people they work with: 73% of women and 64% of men
  2. Work/life balance: both men and women rated it 59%
  3. Liking their boss: 53% of women and 47% men
  4. Benefits: 42% of women and 48% of men

The fifth area of job satisfaction is one where both men and women didn’t align. Nearly half (47%) of men reported that salary was important to overall satisfaction while 42% of women reported “feeling valued/accomplishments are recognized” were the secret sauce to keep them smiling at work.


About the author

Lydia Dishman is a staff editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. She has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.


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