Job satisfaction among women has dramatically declined in Britain since the early 1990s, a study has found – shattering the concept of the “contented female worker”.
A quarter of a century ago, female job satisfaction ranked highly compared with that of men. This was believed to be due to the fact that women had lower expectations from their employment and were content merely to be in a workplace.
But new research has revealed that women and men have a similar level of satisfaction with their professional lives, as female employees begin to expect more from their place of work.
An academic survey – Paradox Lost: Disappearing Female Job Satisfaction – found that it was not that men were becoming happier in their employment, but that women’s expectations now more closely matches reality – namely that they expect far more from their work, and are increasingly less satisfied in the workplace.
The report, from Lancaster University Management School, found that female job satisfaction has dropped at more than three times the male rate since 1991, with no significant difference in male-female job satisfaction in the most recent years.
The original study was taken from data collated in 1991 by Professor Andrew Clark, which saw female job satisfaction rank highly compared with that of men. However, Prof Clark predicted this resulted from women’s improved position in the labour force relative to their expectations and that it would be temporary, as already there was no satisfaction gap for the youngest and most educated workers in his sample.
Professor Colin Green, a researcher from Lancaster University Management School, said: “This revealing result suggests that while the early 1990s cohort aged out of a gender gap, young modern-day workers never had one in the first place.
“This fits with the view that female workers in the 1990s had lower expectations than their male counterparts and were simply more satisfied with a given set of working characteristics because of these lower expectations.
“The literature on female satisfaction has essentially taken as given the so-called ‘paradox of the contented female worker’, however, our calculations reveal that this has now completely vanished.
“Women seem to have expectations about the labour force that increasingly reflect actual experience and that are closer to those of men.”