Gender bias at work: Most women have experienced sexism in the office

NEW YORK — Nearly half of women have switched careers because of sexism in the workplace. A survey of 2,005 full-time employed American women finds that 62 percent of respondents have experienced gender bias in the office.

Gender bias is defined as prejudice in favor of or against one gender compared to another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

More than half of respondents admit they have even considered leaving their current job (56%) for issues like wage discrimination (52%), sexual harassment (48%) or gender-based hiring and promotional practices (48%). Additionally, they were almost just as likely to notice bias against themselves (69%) as they were to notice it directed towards other women (73%).

How workplace sexism impacts women

Conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with SurePayroll, the survey also reveals that one in three women believe they were passed over for a promotion or job change in favor of a man within the last five years (36%).  And 43 percent discovered that a male coworker was being paid more than they were while holding the same position.

Similarly, two in five women feel they’ve been held back from progressing in their career because of their gender. Half also agree that it’s generally harder for women to get ahead where they currently work. 

Most women – 7 in 10 – however, think women have more of an opportunity to speak up than ever before.

In fact, a third of those polled (35%) say they’ve stood up to gender bias. That’s almost twice the number of women who admit to letting it go (22%). Two-thirds of respondents with children say they feel supported by their workplace when they need to take time off to be the primary caregiver at home.

Comparably, more than half also feel their employer provides adequate paid maternity leave (56%).

Employers have a long way to go

Women say they can start creating a better working environment by showing compassion and sympathy towards their needs or by providing equal pay and opportunity for both genders. Most respondents believe it’s important for women to have female mentors (82%). And half of women surveyed note that their biggest inspiration is their mom.

Others named celebrities who’ve spoken out about gender equality in the past. The list includes performer Lady Gaga, former First Lady Michelle Obama and Nobel Prize-winning activist Malala Youfsafzai.

According to veteran executive coach Dr. Vicky Gordon, the solidarity that comes with mentorship can have a pronounced impact in the workplace.  “Women mentoring women is an essential leadership responsibility,” says Gordon, who also serves as an adjunct professor in Global Leadership at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. “We need women to face challenges together, provide inspiration to each other, and define ways to overcome gender-based bias in the workplace to achieve their career dreams.”

Seventy percent believe it’s their responsibility to mentor other women in the workplace, and 69 percent of those respondents have already done so.

My career path has been shaped by women mentors, and it is my privilege to pay it forward by mentoring women looking to grow in their current fields or pursue pivots that better align with their ambitions or passions,” adds Jenna Shklyar, SurePayroll head of marketing. “Sixty-four percent of respondents say there needs to be a greater number of women at the corporate level in C-Suite positions. Meaningful representation in upper management gives voice to employees and customers. It also matters because approximately 10 million small businesses are owned and operated by women.”


  1. Where can I find the study? This is an important piece of research and I can’t find any links to the study itself!

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