Working Women Are Happier
An interesting new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and the Chicago Federal Reserve, which looks at eighty years of workplace history, reports interesting findings: over time, women have become happier and more satisfied with work, while men have become less happy and less satisfied. Evan Horowitz of the Boston Globe notes that the researchers acknowledge the challenges of measuring something like happiness and satisfaction when they don’t use a consistent year-by-year survey that asks the same questions. But the researchers explain that they built their research on several existing solid studies and devised new methods of data analysis to draw the longitudinal conclusion that only women have improved their working lives. Here are some reasons for this gender difference offered by the researchers:
- Changing social norms allowed more women to enter the workplace in recent decades.
- The work options available for working women have expanded dramatically since the 1950s, and even more so since the 1990s.
- Women have been shifting into better jobs with less clerical activity and more professional and managerial jobs and fewer assembly-line jobs.
- More women than men now graduate in the United States with college and graduate school degrees, which increases their options.
- Lower-educated women have enjoyed the greatest increase in workplace satisfaction, possibly because they were the most constrained to begin with under the old gendered rules.
What about men? Why is their satisfaction lower than in the past? The researchers have some suggestions:
- While physically demanding work, such as mining and assembly-line work, has become less common, men seem to enjoy factory work much more than women do. Consequently, the shift from assembly lines to desk work left women feeling more content and men feeling less content.
- The shift from assembly-line work also coincides with the erosion of labor union membership and job security, leaving men feeling more stress and less contentment even when they are able to find factory work.
The researchers note that their findings of decreased happiness and satisfaction with work for men “is consistent with a growing body of research about the struggles of men.”
While I definitely do not wish for men to be less happy with their work, I do note, with pride, the increased happiness of women in the workplace. I am grateful for the struggles of the second-wave feminist movement since the 1960s to open up work options for women. I remember when very few options existed for women. The struggle is not over. I have written recent articles about the gender pay gap and challenges that women still face with having access to leadership roles and to nontraditional jobs. But I am pleased that we have more options and are happier.
Do you “remember when?” What do see that is different for women now?
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