Researchers also asked if people had ever discovered that they were being paid less that someone of the opposite gender for the same work, or if they felt that they were often treated as if they were incompetent. About a quarter of the women surveyed answered yes to each of those questions. This data tracks with existing narratives about how gender discrimination manifests in the workplace.
Many of anecdotes about on-the-job gender bias hinge on women having their competency questioned, despite a demonstrated record of success. In Liza Mundy’s recent Atlantic story about gender discrimination in Silicon Valley, Tracy Chou, a software engineer, described finding a critical flaw in her company’s code. She goes on to say that her finding wasn’t taken seriously until a male colleague backed her up, and after that, her work to fix the bug was constantly scrutinized and second-guessed, even though she had saved the company from a large error.
Chou’s experience with gender discrimination fits a pattern in the labor market that can seem counterintuitive: Having more education and working in more competitive and highly paid fields make women more likely to experience certain forms of discrimination at work. In Pew’s survey, reports of discrimination increased significantly for women with postgraduate degrees: Nearly 60 percent of working women with advanced degrees reported encountering discrimination. For women with a college degree, around 40 percent reported this issue. And that figure was about the same for women with no college degree, 39 percent of whom reported issues with gender discrimination. Highly educated women are also more likely to see a bigger difference between their own incomes and that of their male colleagues.
There are other notable patterns in who reports experiencing harassment at work. More than half (53 percent) of black women surveyed by Pew said that they had experienced some form of gender-based discrimination at work, significantly more than the 40 percent of white and Hispanic women who reported issues with discrimination. More specifically, nearly one-quarter of black women said they had been passed over for important assignments because of gender. Fewer than 10 percent of white and Hispanic women reported facing the same problem.
These findings track with existing research that shows that despite educational gains, black women are rarely found in the upper echelons of company management, and still struggle to overcome stereotypes that paint them as aggressive or difficult to work with. And there’s still more evidence that black women struggle to get the economic and labor-force boost that many other groups get from increasing their education. Instead, their pay remains significantly lower than most other groups, they remain overrepresented in low-pay industries, and they are more likely to be fired than their peers.