Equal Pay Day 2019: Men and women equally happy with jobs, but not their pay

By Laura Wronski, senior research scientist, and Jon Cohen, chief research officer, SurveyMonkey
Key Points
  • Majorities of both men and women say they're well paid for the work they do — but men more so than women, according to a new CNBC/SurveyMonkey study of America's workers.
  • Women are paid less than men, with 63 percent of women and just 46 percent of men reporting personal incomes below $50,000, the Workplace Happiness Index found.
  • Women of color, both black and Latina, are the least likely to say they are well paid for the work they do.
Women rally to demand equal pay for women and an end to the wage gap .
Creative Touch Imaging Ltd. | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Women's Equal Pay Day is Tuesday, marking the extra three months women have had to work in 2019 to match the amount of money men made in 2018 alone.

Tuesday also marks the release of the new CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Index, which bears one especially noteworthy result in light of the day: equality between men and women, at least in terms of workplace happiness and job satisfaction. Men have a Workplace Happiness Index score of 72 and women a score of 70, close enough to lack a statistically meaningful difference.

Overall, majorities of both men and women say they're well paid for the work they do — but men more so than women (76% vs. 69%). Women are in fact paid less than men, with 63 percent of women and just 46 percent of men reporting personal incomes below $50,000. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 20 percent of working men but just 10 percent of working women say they make $100,000 or more.

In part, women's lower average pay is a reflection of structural differences between men's and women's employment, and these data bear that out as well. Women, for example, are more likely than men to work part-time, sometimes by necessity but often by choice. Part-time workers in general make less money than full time workers, and are less likely to be on a career path with the same growth potential that full-time employees have.


But even when we just examine data among full-time workers, the trend persists: 78 percent of full-time working men say they are well paid for the work they do, seven points higher than full-time working women.

Among part-time workers, on the other hand, we see full parity between men and women, indicating the presence of structural barriers to women's achieving equality for full-time work that aren't an issue in part-time jobs.

Equal pay for equal work?

Part of the problem in looking at these overall numbers, however, is the different types of work that men and women often are drawn to for their careers, or perhaps funneled into once they join the workforce. Economists have demonstrated that at least part of the reason for the pay gap between men and women is that women are more often working in lower paid fields, and that even within a particular field women tend to work in lower-paid roles.

With more than 8,000 respondents to our survey who are currently employed, we can start to dig into this problem. In all four industries with a large enough sample size to compare responses by job level and sex, men were consistently more likely than women in their own field and at their same level to consider themselves well paid.

Individual contributors — an easy job level distinction that looks at everyone whose job does not involve managing other people — in government, health care & pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, and retail & consumer goods were all happier with their pay if they were men.

SM worker chart 3

Of course, there are plenty of legitimate reasons — including tenure, education, and advanced skills — why a man and a woman working in the same field and doing similar jobs might have vastly different salaries, and as extensive as these survey data are they still are limited in the degree to which we can make comparisons.

Other surveys have shown more subliminal ways in which women are held back. SurveyMonkey and Quartz recently reported that men are more likely than women to feel comfortable speaking up (72% vs. 63%), which might give them more confidence when sharing an opinion in a meeting or getting attention for a project they've completed. And, men are also more likely than women to say they can be fully themselves at work (51% vs. 45%), meaning they can share more of their personal lives without concern that they'll be judged or penalized.

The overall disparity between men and women is a real problem, but deeper issues arise when examining differences by race.

Women of color have the most ground to make up

While Equal Pay Day falls on April 2, Black Women's Equal Pay Day isn't until August, and Latina Equal Pay Day isn't until November, representing the increased imbalance in pay that women of color face even compared to other women.

A majority of Americans are aware of the pay inequities between white men and women of color. In previous surveys that SurveyMonkey has conducted in partnership with Lean In, 62 percent of people said that white men make more money than black women and 65 percent said that white men make more money than Latinas for doing similar types of work.

Most people attribute these disparities in pay to racism, sexism, or unconscious bias. Many also call out structural problems in the modern workplace, such as the lack of black or Latina women in leadership positions, or the fact that women of color often work in lower-paying fields.

More importantly, women of color are aware of these differences, too. Fully 80 percent of black women say they're aware of the disparity between white men and black women, and 67 percent of Hispanic women are aware of the disparity between white men and Latinas.

The new CNBC|SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness data strongly validate these previous findings. Within every racial group, women are less likely than men to say they are well paid for the work they do.

In addition, while 72 percent of white women say they are well paid, just 65 percent of Hispanic women and 64 percent of black women say the same about themselves.

SM worker chart 2

There's more work to be done. Equal Pay Day focuses squarely on the big problem women face in achieving parity in pay, but these data are a sharp reminder that money is just one component of happiness at work. Although women have room to improve in terms of salary, they are just as likely as men to feel that their contributions are valued by their colleagues, to have autonomy over their job, and to say their work is meaningful to them.

This first round of Workplace Happiness data proves that pay isn't the only predictor of one's happiness at work, but it is one clear avenue for improvement. If women overall and women of color to an even greater degree don't believe themselves to be well paid at the same rate as men, they probably aren't. That's a problem.

By Laura Wronski, senior research scientist, and Jon Cohen, chief research officer, SurveyMonkey

Survey Methodology: This SurveyMonkey online poll was conducted March 13-18, 2019 among a national sample of 8,664 workers in the United States. Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on SurveyMonkey's online platform each day and based on its survey methodology. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. Data have been weighted initially for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over, then weighted for age, race, sex, education, employment status, and geography using Census Bureau's Current Population Survey to reflect the demographic composition of United States employed population. Full results available here.

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At Work

85% of American workers are happy with their jobs, national survey shows

Key Points
  • The majority of the American workforce is pretty happy, according to the first CNBC/Survey Monkey Workplace Happiness Index, announced at the @Work Talent + HR Summit on Tuesday.
  • The quarterly index measures how Americans feel about their jobs across five key categories — pay, opportunities for advancement, recognition, autonomy and meaning.
  • CNBC and SurveyMonkey polled 8,664 professionals nationwide across a wide swath of industries.
  • The CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Index is an optimistic 71 out of 100, while the survey found 85 percent of respondents are either somewhat or very satisfied with their jobs.