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Women have been demanding equal treatment at work since the 1960s. But four decades later, the playing field is still far from level, according to a recent study by Catalyst, the New York City-based nonprofit research group that focuses on women's issues.

When it comes to attitudes toward work and salary, Gen X women are not much different from their Baby Boomer predecessors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women today earn 76 cents for every $1 earned by a man. Yet, the Catalyst survey of 1,263 Gen X professionals found that 62 percent of men believe that men and women are paid the same for similar work. But men are not the only ones in the dark about pay equity: 30 percent of Gen X women surveyed think men and women are paid the same for similar work.

Almost half of Gen X women (42 percent) say they have to outperform men to get the same rewards; 11 percent of Gen X men agree with them. At least 3 in 10 men surveyed agreed with the statement: “All other things being equal, a woman will be promoted over a man in my organization.� Only 10 percent of women agreed. “They are living two different realities,� says Paulette Gerkovich, director of research at Catalyst. The disparity in viewpoints was surprising, she says, because researchers had long assumed that Gen X men were more attuned to the needs of female Gen Xers.

The survey, released in December 2001, sought to test assumptions about Gen X workers and give company recruiters a glimpse into this generation's work-related expectations and motivations. Respondents to the poll of Gen X professionals (defined by Catalyst as those born between 1964 and 1975) came from eight companies in the U.S. and two in Canada, which represent primarily heavy manufacturing, technology, communications and financial services industries.

As Gen Xers slowly infiltrated the American work force over the past decade, the media tended to portray them as inveterate job-hoppers unwilling to conform to company demands and impatient to make their first million. According to the survey's findings, however, 47 percent of Gen Xers currently in the work force say they'd happily stay with their present employers for the rest of their careers. What's more, 83 percent say they are willing to put in more effort than expected to help their organizations be successful; 85 percent say they genuinely care about the fate of their current employer.

The survey also found that, perhaps contrary to expectation, impromptu games of Nerfball and gym memberships are not at the top of this generation's workplace priorities. The majority of Gen Xers say they were attracted to their current employer for more traditional reasons such as perceived opportunities for advancement (88 percent), compensation (78 percent) and the company's reputation (77 percent).

Even so, this generation values personal and family commitments more than career goals. Only 2 in 10 (21 percent) rate “earning a great deal of money� as extremely important, while 84 percent say that “having a loving family� and 72 percent say “establishing a relationship with a significant other� are extremely important. Yet, maintaining personal relationships has proven to be a struggle for many Gen Xers, who say they have yet to achieve a desirable work/life balance. Almost three-quarters of respondents (72 percent) rate “job interference� with their personal lives as “moderate to very severe.� Unlike their predecessors though, Gen X women are less willing to follow the traditional model and abandon everything to ascend the corporate ladder. Still in their child-bearing years, Gen X women are much more likely than Gen X men to say they expect to work part time at their current companies at some point within the next five years (19 percent versus 2 percent).

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