It is 2017 and women are making inroads of progress toward being seen as bosses, executives, and company founders. But a striking new Pew Research Center survey finds that the default for society’s vision of working ambition is still a man.
Gender stereotypes about women being homemakers and men being breadwinners persist. This past August and September, a group of 4,000 nationally representative U.S. adults were asked to answer what pressures they thought men and women faced, and their answers made it clear that men are still seen as the main provider in family units.
The top pressures for men were earning money for their families and being successful in their careers. While three in four Americans agreed that the biggest pressure point for men is supporting their family financially, only 40% agreed that this was a top priority for women.
Meanwhile, more than 70% of Americans thought that the biggest pressures for women are being an involved parent and being physically attractive. In the list of presumed societal pressures, being a breadwinner or good at their job came in last for women.
The reason for the gendered differences may become clearer when you see how the majority of Americans view men and women’s best contributions to society.
When the participants were asked open-ended questions about what traits society values most in men and women, the top values for men were honesty, professional success, and ambition. Meanwhile, when asked what were the most valuable qualities a women could have, participants’ top answers were: being physically attractive, nurturing, and smart.
According to Pew, college-educated adults are more likely than their less-educated peers to say that men face a lot of pressure to be successful in their careers. At the same time, the highly educated are less likely to say that men face pressure to be involved parents or to be physically attractive.
“Three-quarters of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree say that men face a lot of pressure to be successful in their job or career, compared with 68% with some college experience and 62% with a high school diploma or less,” Pew reports. “By contrast, 61% with a high school diploma or less say that men face a lot of pressure to be an involved parent, compared with 46% with some college experience and 38% with at least a bachelor’s degree.”
Another finding from Pew was that the more degrees you have, the less likely you are to believe that women face financial and work pressures to succeed and make money. While half of Americans with a high school degree or less agreed that the top pressures for women were financially supporting their families and succeeding in their chosen careers, that number drops to 36% and 43% for people with some college experience, and 31% and 40% for people with a bachelor’s degree.
The findings are a reminder that you can well-schooled and still not be educated in the challenges that women face to succeed outside of the domestic sphere. As multiple studies have shown, the gender gap in women’s paychecks and their representation in powerful positions closes when women and men are seen as equally capable at being parents and at being successful employees.
The Pew Research Center survey shows that we have a long way to go before that’s the case.