Battle of the Sexes: Gender Perceptions at Work

by Staff - Original publish date: December 11, 2013

Men and Women, Work and Life

As we enter the time of year between Mother's Day and Father's Day, Americans also find themselves caught in the middle of shifting norms when it comes to gender, work, and life.

Men still earn more money than women, but more women than men are graduating with college degrees. The last few years have seen vastly more men laid off from their jobs due to the economy, while more women than ever before are entering the workforce. On the homefront, stay-at-home parenting duties are no longer strictly relegated to women. The number of stay-at-home dads is rising steadily and approaching 200,000, while the Boston College Center for Work and Family reports that more and more men are placing an increased emphasis on gaining work/life flexibility in their jobs.

But how do men and women truly see each other and their respective roles both at work and at home? Are the stereotypes of old truly on their way to being eradicated? We wanted to find some answers, so we asked more than 2,100 people their thoughts regarding work, life, gender and societal norms.

The Strengths & Weaknesses of Each Sex

We asked both women and men to list what they thought to be the strengths and weaknesses of each sex.

When it came to women, both sexes were largely in agreement. Men and women agreed that interpersonal skills (35%), communication skills (30%), and work ethic (17%) are the top three strengths of women, followed by creativity (6%), leadership skills (4%), and negotiation skills (4%). But when assessing the strength of men, there was much more of a divide.

Men see themselves as leaders with a strong work ethic, while women feel men are most adept at negotiating. Among men, 38% said their greatest strength is leadership skills followed by 27% who chose work ethic. But 44% of women think the biggest strength men possess is negotiation skills. This backs up our data in a previous survey which found only 30% of women always negotiate salary, compared to nearly half (46%) of men.

Women Feel They're Overlooked & Underpaid

It's not as prevalent as it was 50 years ago, but the women we surveyed still feel it's very much a man's world.

Whereas only 9% of men said they feel their contributions at work are overlooked and underappreciated specifically because of their sex, that number jumps to 35% for women. And when broken down by age, it appears the older you are the more overlooked you feel. Thirty-one percent of Baby Boomers (those born between 1946-1964) feel underappreciated, compared to 26% of people in Generation X (born from 1965-1979) and 19% of Millennials (anyone born after 1980).

Furthermore, far more women than men believe they are underpaid. Among women, 42% feel they are paid less than their equally qualified co-workers, with only 13% saying they are paid more. For men, 25% believe they are paid less and nearly one-quarter (23%) say they are paid more than their peers.

A total of 10% said they don't know how much money people they work with are making, but that information can be answered here.

Playing Favorites?

In an ideal world there would be no favorites. But as most employees will tell you, work is often far from ideal.

When it comes to favoritism in the workplace, both men and women agree that it occurs. But they have different opinions as to who the beneficiaries are. More than half -- 53% -- of women say that men are favored at work. And while 20% of men agree with that opinion, 21% of men believe women enjoy preferred status at the office.

Only 4% of women believe other women are the favored sex at the office.

Men or Women: Who Would You Rather Work With/For?

We know women feel they are undervalued, underpaid, and that men enjoy preferred status and built-in advantages in the workplace. So it should be a no-brainer when we ask them if they'd rather work with/for a man or a woman, right?

Think again.

When asked who they'd pick if they could choose the sex of their supervisor, 36% of the women we surveyed chose men compared to a measly 11% of women who said they'd rather work for another woman. Thirty-one percent of men said they'd rather work for another man, with 9% choosing women. That trend was also evident when we asked people who they prefer having as co-workers -- men or women? Nearly one-third -- 31% -- of women said they'd rather work with men, dwarfing the 20% of men who answered similarly. In fact, more men (12%) said they'd rather work with women than the 10% of women who said the same.

This begs the question: if women feel men aren't treating them fairly, why are they so eager to work with/for them as opposed to women?

Women as Breadwinners

Gone are the Mad Men days of husbands bringing home the bacon while housewives clean the house and have dinner on the table the minute he walks through the door.

When it comes to breadwinners, it's true men still carry the load -- but in much smaller numbers. It's unsurprising that 78% of men identified as primary breadwinners for their families. What does raise some eyebrows is the fact that 62% of the women we surveyed are now family breadwinners.

Granted, we're and our readers are more career oriented than most. But the fact remains women are earning more of the diplomas, entering the workforce in greater numbers, and often having their husbands stay at home to be a full-time parents instead of them, which has led to a far greater number of women earning more money as breadwinners.

Stay-at-Home Parenting is an Option for Everyone

Women have the natural parenting instincts and men have no interest in giving up their careers to parent full-time. Right?

Think again.

According to U.S. Census data, the number of stay-at-home dads has more than doubled since 2001, and now there are nearly 200,000 full-time stay-at-home dads in America. It's partly due to layoffs and the recession, but also because men are making work/life flexibility a priority. That's never been clearer than this survey, which found the desire to be a stay-at-home parent is equal among women and men.

Fifty-seven percent of both women and men said they would be willing to sacrifice their careers to become full time parents. Interestingly, Millennials (born after 1980) are the least likely to give up their careers with half reporting they'd do so, compared to 59% of Generation X (born 1965-1979) and 60% of Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964).

Do Men & Women Equally Support Stay-at-Home Spouses?

"Men need to step up and do more of the caregiving and household chores."

That's been the hue and cry from many academics who refer to womens' "Second Shift," which alludes to the fact that the division of labor between the sexes is unfair toward women. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2011, women spent two more hours a day on household duties compared to men, which means women had less time to work and earn a living. The solution, according to some, is for men to step up and take a more active role at home which would help bridge the pay gap.

There's just one problem -- women are much less apt to support men who seek to be stay-at-home fathers.

While 91% of men we surveyed said they would support their wives' decision to stay-at-home, that number dropped precipitously to 70% of women answering the same. In fact, more than one-quarter of women (26%) said they flat-out refuse to even entertain the notion of working full-time while supporting a husband who stays home and takes care of the kids and house. That's compared to just 8% of men who said they would refuse the request of their spouse to stay at home.

What Part of America Is Most Accepting of Full-Time Parents?

Wondering which part of the country is most willing to forego work and be a stay-at-home parent?

The East South Central region (Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama) is the part of the country that is most willing to become stay-at-home moms and dads, with 66% of those surveyed answering in the affirmative. That's followed by the Pacific region (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii) with 61% answering the same.

When it comes to the region that is least likely to stay at home full time, the answer might surprise you. Progressively liberal people in New England put up the most resistance to placing parenthood over career, with half of those surveyed saying they wouldn't give up work.

Like It or Not, Times are Changing

We don't have all the answers, but this survey proves things are definitely changing.

Women still aren't earning as much as men, but more of them than ever are breadwinners and their presence in the workforce is growing ever stronger. Yet even though women still feel put upon, the ones we surveyed have no ambition to work for or with other women. For men, their newfound proclivity for work/life balance is refreshing. However, until that willingness to be more involved at home is recognized and actually supported by more women and employers, many men will continue to feel lost in (forgive the pun) no man's land between work and home.

If you're interested in hearing a personal testimonial from's general manager regarding modern-day work and parenthood from the trenches of being a working mother, click here.

It's All About Negotiation

While there are lots of natural differences between men and women, the one thing they both have in common is a need to negotiate salary and/or raises. Luckily can help.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.