Millennials Are Least Likely To Believe Men Should 'Be Advocates For Closing The Gender Pay Gap,' Study Finds

In recent years, there has been a growing push both in the U.S. and abroad for lawmakers and the corporate world to address the pay gap between men and women.

But while younger generations have largely been credited with driving that push, researchers behind a recent study on workers' perceptions of the gender pay gap in the U.S. and Britain were surprised to find that millennials are the least likely to say they believe men should be "advocates for closing the gender pay gap," compared to older and younger generations.

The study, which was carried out by beqom, a cloud-based compensation management software, saw a total of 1,600 workers at large enterprises in sectors including finance and insurance, telecommunications, retail, manufacturing, software and technology, surveyed, with 960 respondents based in the U.S. and 640 in Britain.

Asked whether they believed that men should be advocates for closing the gender pay gap, 35 percent of millennials said they did not believe men should be advocates for closing the gap.

While millennials fall between Baby Boomers, who would have been born between around 1946 and 1964 and members of Generation Z, the demographic cohort born after millennials, in age, they made up the highest percentage of respondents who believed men should not be advocates for closing the gap.

A lesser percentage of Baby Boomers (30 percent) agreed with millennials, while only 16 percent of Generation Z participants said they felt men should not be advocates for closing the gap.

"We did find that statistic surprising, as millennials are typically represented as advocates for equality in general," said Tanya Jansen, co-founder at beqom.

"That said, a significant portion—more than half—of millennials (56%) do believe men in their companies should be advocates for closing the gap," she noted, however.

Why so many millennials did not share in that belief is unclear. One potential reason, however, could be that participants did not believe men are best-suited for advocating for closing the pay gap, compared with women.

While Jansen noted that millennials are typically associated with progressive movements, she said beqom's survey did show Generation Z to also be highly "motivated activists" who "believe in equal societies."

"I don't expect that they'll stand for the current unequal climate in our workplaces and are more likely to believe all people, regardless of gender, should be advocates for closing the gender pay gap," she said of Gen Z members.

Another major surprise, Jansen said, which could have also impacted how participants answered in the survey, was "the large number of workers who reported they were not aware of the gap."

Asked whether they were aware of the gender pay gap in their countries, just over 75 percent of respondents said yes, while nearly 19.5 percent said no. Meanwhile, nearly 5.5 percent said they did not know.

Of all respondents, U.S. men were the least aware of the gender pay gap at 70 percent, with 76 percent of U.S. women and UK women being aware and 74 percent of UK men claiming knowledge of it.

"With so much discussion in the media, in the government, and at the workplace about the gender pay gap, I was surprised by the large number of workers who reported they were not aware of the gap," she said.

Jansen said it was also "interesting to compare statistics between the U.S. and the UK" on how reporting laws affected the pay gap.

"The UK enacted gender pay gap reporting laws in 2017, and we found that double the number of UK workers (33 percent) reported that the pay gap has decreased in the last 12-18 months compared to U.S. workers (14 percent)" she said.

"This demonstrates that those reporting laws are actually making a difference when it comes to closing the gender pay gap and provides proof points for the United States to implement similar reporting laws down the line," she said.

Ultimately, Jansen said it is "critical for employers to understand how employees are perceiving any potential efforts they are making to close the gender pay gap. "

"For example, nearly half of respondents (46 percent) said that their employers are putting more women in leadership roles in an effort to close or prevent the gender pay gap," she said. "However, only 20 percent of employees reported that their company actually announced a commitment to solving the pay gap, and 20 percent of employees believe that their employers and managers do not take closing the gender pay gap seriously."

"This tells employers that while they may be taking some actions, those efforts are not being clearly communicated to their employees," she added. "Armed with this information, employers can reevaluate their efforts to close pay gaps and create better systems to communicate effectively with their employees and prove their commitment to closing these gaps."

Such efforts she said, can be shown through "greater compensation transparency, more personalized total rewards plans, or by implementing compensation technology to eliminate any potential compensation bias."

Pay Gap
Flags reading 'Equal Pay Day' are seen during the 'Equal Pay Day' demonstration on March 21, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Adam Berry/Getty