It’s not easy to be a working woman in America.
A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey of 1,100 adults found that while working mothers have gained widespread acceptance in American workplaces, many female employees still feel there is widespread sexism and gender inequity.
In the poll, 78 percent of U.S. adults said it was good for women to have a career while raising children. When this poll was last conducted in 2000, only 46 percent of workers said this split was a positive development.
Perhaps as a result of this shift, the study also found that more working women are the primary wage-earners in their families. Forty-nine percent of women hold that distinction today, compared to 37 percent in 2000.
But the amount of respondents who believe that men don’t accept women as equals in the workplace held steady at 61 percent.
Women are also more likely than men to notice inequities at work. Forty-four percent of women said expectations for men and women were different, compared to only 34 percent of men. And while one-third of females believed they were paid less than men, only 12 percent of men said such an imbalance existed.
This disconnect has real life effects. Chandra Childers, a senior research scientist at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), told Observer that while there may be greater support of women in the workplace overall, they still face discrimination in executive positions and fields like construction and tech.
And while fewer employers may discriminate in the modern workplace, that unequal treatment is still a factor.
“Before if I applied for 10 positions, eight wouldn’t hire me because I was a working mother,” Childers said. “Now it’s four. So there’s less discrimination, but it’s still there.”
Harassment is also still rampant in offices. Forty-four percent of women said they had experienced unwanted advances, sexism or harassment at work—the same percentage as in 2000. That number held steady for women of all races, age groups and education levels.
However, many respondents of both genders also voiced support for the #MeToo movement. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said this increased attention on sexual harassment was appropriate, a finding that didn’t surprise Childers.
“A lot of the women we’re seeing in this movement are famous and in high profile positions,” she said. “They’re talking about harassment from wealthy, powerful men in Hollywood.”
While these stories are horrific, they’re only a small part of the whole. Childers pointed out that industries like hospitality and agriculture have the same problems as Hollywood but receive much less coverage because these women don’t have the means to fight back.
“These women can’t afford to lose their jobs, so we’re not seeing the Harvey Weinstein of agriculture,” Childers said. “The people in this survey may not fully understand how deep this problem is or what they can do to change it.”
There have been some improvements of late, including companies stopping the use of nondisclosure agreements and codifying harassment policies in their employee handbooks. Until these solutions are available to all women by law, Childers says, women won’t be fully protected in the workplace.
“I’m hoping we can bring attention to women all across the economic spectrum,” Childers said. “As these issues arise for different groups of women, we might be able to see some progress.”