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Young women say sexism happens, but not to them

Gunnar Svanberg | Iconica | Getty Images

Most millennial women think gender discrimination is still alive and well in the working world—but not necessarily in their own workplace, a new report finds.

The Pew Research Center report released Wednesday found that 60 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 32 think that men earn more than women for the same work. More than half of millennial women also said it's easier for men to get top executive jobs in business and government, according to the survey of about 2,000 people conducted in October.

"Millennial women were just as likely as older generation of women to have these general perceptions of inequality in the workplace," said Kim Parker, director of social trends research at Pew Research Center.

But the report found that few millennial women would say they see that type of discrimination at their own workplace, and only 15 percent said they have been discriminated against at work because of their gender.

Parker said the same was generally true of workers in general.

"Most people said, 'It's not like that at my workplace,' " Parker said. "There was a sort of a real disconnect there."

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Nearly 80 percent of the millennial women Pew surveyed said that where they work, women have the same chances for advancement that men have. And more than 70 percent said that at their workplace, men and women are paid about the same for the same work, Parker said.

The researchers found that the wage gap for young workers has narrowed significantly in the past few decades. Women 25 to 34 now earn 93 percent of what men of the same age earn, according to their analysis of government data on median hourly wages for full- and part-time workers.

Overall, they found, women of all ages are earning 84 percent of what men earn, according to their calculations.

It's not clear that women will continue to earn nearly as much as men as they get older, however. Previous research has found that the earnings gap tends to widen as workers age—and especially when women start having children.

"The funny thing about the wage gap being smaller for younger people is that it always raises the optimism that young people are the future and maybe as they age the wage gap will continue to be narrow," said Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland at College Park who studies work and family issues. "And we keep being disappointed by this."

Cohen, who was not involved in the Pew study, said things could end up being different for millennial women, who like every generation bring new norms and expectations to the workplace. Millennial women also appear to be getting married and having children later, which he pointed out could shift their career trajectories.

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Parker at Pew said it appeared that many millennial women are recognizing that it will be difficult to balance a career and family. About 60 percent of millennial women without children said they think having kids will make it harder for them to advance their career.

"They look ahead and say, 'At some point, something's gotta give," she said.

Still, she noted, nearly all the women surveyed who had taken time off work or reduced hours for family reasons were glad they had done so.

The Pew report also found that young women are less likely than young men to want to be a boss or top manager.

(Read more: For women, asking for a raise can backfire)

The Pew report comes a day after the nonprofit group Catalyst reported that the percentage of Fortune 500 board seats and executive officer positions held by women was virtually unchanged in 2013. Among Fortune 500 companies, it said, women held 16.9 percent of corporate board seats and 14.6 percent of executive officer positions.

The ranks of women in top positions did increase this week as well, however, with the announcement that Mary Barra was becoming the first female CEO of General Motors.

—By CNBC's Allison Linn. Follow her on Twitter @allisondlinn and Google or send her an email.

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