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For many people, their perception is their reality. But when it comes to leadership and advancement in the workplace, a recent study illustrates how people working in the same office — even sitting next to each other — can have two highly divergent views. This is especially true when it comes to ideas about the gains that women have made in the working world.

Women in the Workplace study. Researchers surveyed 12 million people employed by 222 companies about their HR practices, as well as 70,000 employees about their experiences at work dealing with topics such as career, gender, opportunity and work-life balance.

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Female workers are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male counterparts, according to the report. However, in addition to the disparity in compensation and promotion between men and women, there is also a sizable perception gap between the genders, the researchers found.

“Men are more likely to think the workplace is equitable; women see a workplace that is less fair and offers less support,” the researchers explained in a summary of the findings. “Men think their companies are doing a pretty good job supporting diversity; women see more room for improvement. Given the persistent lag in women’s advancement, women have the more accurate view.”

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The numbers tell the story: Thirty-seven percent of women surveyed agreed with the statement, “My gender has played a role in missing out on a raise, promotion or chance to get ahead,” while only eight percent of men said the same. Fifty-seven percent of women agreed that they “have equal opportunity for growth as [their] peers,” while 62 percent of men reported the same.

Forty-nine percent of women (vs. 63 percent of men) said, “my company is doing what it takes to improve gender diversity.” And while 58 percent of women reported that gender diversity is an important priority, only 47 percent of men agreed.

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Even women’s perceptions contrast sharply with reality. When considering companies where only one in 10 high-level leaders is female, roughly 50 percent of men said they thought women were well represented in leadership. Yet a mere one-third of female respondents said they found women to be well represented when presented with this same one-in-10 ratio.

If perceptions differ so starkly when it comes to what must be done to create an equitable workplace, think about what other divides might exist between you and your co-workers or employees. You might have opposing views on the direction in which your company is going, who your customer is or what product will make the most impact.

As you grow your business and hire new members to your team, make sure that you are in constant communication about top priorities and values — and work to get everyone on the same page to move forward.

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