Female job satisfaction has dramatically declined in Britain since the early 1990s and a gender gap no longer exists, meaning that the paradox of the “contented female worker” has vanished, new research from Lancaster University Management School reveals.
However Professor Colin Green and his co-researchers found that rather being down to worsening job characteristics, the downward spiral occurs because women’s expectations now more closely matches reality – namely they expect far more from their work, and are increasingly less satisfied in the workplace.
A major original study taken from data in 1991, by Professor Andrew Clark, saw female job satisfaction rank highly compared with men, projecting this paradox. However Professor Clark also predicted that this had 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.
In their new paper, Paradox Lost: Disappearing Female Job Satisfaction, Professor Green and his co-researchers have proved him right, showing that as expectations of work have changed, the gap between male and female job satisfaction no longer exists.
Female job satisfaction trends down at more than 3 times the male rate over the period, with no significant difference in male-female job satisfaction in the most recent years.
In terms of age, in 1991, among both younger (under 35) and older, there existed a significant female satisfaction advantage but this advantage was much greater for older workers. By 2008 the estimated size of this advantage was markedly reduced and by 2012, there was essentially no difference in job satisfaction between men and women, including both younger and older workers.
Professor Colin Green, from Lancaster University Management School, said: “This revealing result suggests that while the early 1990s cohort aged out of a gender gap, young modern days workers never had one in the first place. This fits with the view that female workers in the 90s 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.”
The data used in this paper was drawn from the BHPS and its subsequent expansion Understanding Society (US). The BHPS is a nationally representative sample that each year interviews approximately 10,000 individuals from roughly 5,500 households. Researchers used the waves of the BHPS corresponding to 1991-2008, after which the BHPS was discontinued and replaced with US.