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Poll: Women Half as Likely as Men to Think They Have Equal Job Opportunities

  • Gallup poll finds the share of people who think women have equal job opportunities compared to men at its lowest point in two decades
  • Just one-third of women said they think they have the same job opportunities as men
  • Poll also finds considerable support for affirmative action programs for women

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

The share of Americans who believe that women have the same job opportunities as men has fallen to its lowest share in two decades, according to a Gallup poll. While men and women varied on how they viewed this issue as well as women’s overall treatment in society, a majority of both genders favored affirmative action programs for women.

The poll, which interviewed 1,381 adults in early July, found that 47 percent of respondents thought the job opportunities available to women were equal to those available to men. Historically, 48 percent of people perceived job opportunities this way in Gallup’s first poll on the issue in 1987, with a high point of 57 percent in 2007 and 2008. The current reading is the lowest since 1995, when 34 percent thought women had the same job opportunities as men.

The results also showed the largest disparity between genders on the issue, after the share of women perceiving equal job opportunities fell seven points from last year. Sixty-one percent of men said they think men and women have equal job opportunities, compared to just 33 percent of women.

Women have been more likely than men to leave the labor force during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, with the trend persisting into recent months. The National Women’s Law Center recently determined that while employers posted a net gain of 194,000 new jobs in September, women lost a net 26,000 jobs. A total of 309,000 women left the labor force during the month, the highest figure since September 2020 when 800,000 departed.

Caregiving responsibilities have often forced women to leave a job in order to provide child care. The National Women’s Law Center suggested that some departures may be due to seasonal factors, such as the end of a summer day camp program or schools not yet restarting after-school programs. It also suggested that women are overrepresented in fields that have suffered the worst job losses due to COVID-19, including hospitality, retail, health care, and the public sector.

In the Gallup poll, 53 percent of respondents were satisfied with women’s treatment in society – down from a high of 72 percent in 2002 and 2003. Gallup suggests that the #MeToo movement has had a major effect on women’s perceived treatment, with the share of those who were satisfied on this issue plunging 10 points to 32 percent after the movement began in 2018. In the most recent poll, 61 percent of men and 44 percent of women were satisfied with women’s treatment in society.

Support for affirmative action for women has risen consistently over recent decades. In the most recent survey, a record high of 66 percent of respondents said they support such programs, including 72 percent of women and 61 percent of men.

Gallup found significant differences among demographic groups, with women under 50 most likely to perceive gender inequality and men over 50 most satisfied with how women are treated in society and most likely to oppose affirmative action programs for women. White respondents were more likely than Black and Hispanic ones to be satisfied with how women are treated and consider that women and men have equal employment opportunities.

A majority of Republican respondents, including 79 percent of men and 59 percent of women, saw equal employment opportunities among men and women, while just 26 percent of Democratic men and 13 percent of Democratic women thought so. While 85 percent of Democratic men and 84 percent of Democratic women favored affirmative action for women, the share dropped to 40 percent among Republican men and 48 percent of Republican women.

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