Workplace Views: Men and Women Still Miles Apart?

by Jennifer Robison, Contributing Editor

Gender stereotypes would suggest that women are more likely to feel loyalty toward their employers, while men are more often simply "in it for the money." A July 24, 2002 Chicago Tribune article said, ". . . because women have been socialized to be nurturers, they often feel a strong obligation to maintain people's trust. Conversely, men are trained to focus on winning, which in corporate America translates to making money." But is that strictly true? How dissimilar are men and women on the job?

Equally Satisfied

An August (5-8) Gallup Poll discovered that there are very few differences by gender on most aspects of worker satisfaction. Men and women are essentially equally likely to be completely satisfied with their jobs -- 45% to 40%, respectively. They are also about as likely to think their companies are loyal to them -- 71% of men versus 69% of women. About the same percentage of men and women are completely satisfied with their relations with co-workers (67% of men, 66% of women), their bosses or supervisors (56% of men, 57% of women), and their companies' loyalty to them (71% of men, 69% of women).

Furthermore, about the same percentage of men and women are satisfied with the amount of work they do -- 51% versus 49%, respectively. The same is true with respect to the percentage of men and women who are completely satisfied (48%) with the attention their bosses pay to their opinions.

One somewhat alarming finding emerged when employees were asked about their amount of on-the-job stress. There is only minimal difference between the sexes -- 22% of men are completely satisfied with the amount of stress their job entails, while 18% of women are completely satisfied -- but the average (20%) indicates that very few people, regardless of sex, are completely satisfied with the stress levels they must handle on their jobs today.

What Has Changed?

An ocean of ink has been spilled regarding women's family/career dilemmas (see "Should Mothers Work?" in Related Items). Presumably, because a majority of mothers work, one might think that fewer women would be completely satisfied than men with their vacation time, the flexibility of their hours, and their companies' "overall contribution" to society. By a 68% to 58% margin, women are more likely to say they are completely satisfied with the flexibility of their hours, though the two genders do not differ in their evaluations of their vacation time or their employer's contribution.

Most surprising is that conventional wisdom regarding loyalty, money and gender motivation is reduced to folklore by two blunt questions. When asked if they have a strong sense of loyalty to their companies, men and women gave nearly identical answers. Eighty-six percent of men are strongly loyal, as are 85% of women. And money? When asked about their satisfaction with the amount of money they earn, it turns out that a greater percentage of men are completely satisfied with the money they earn than women are -- 32% versus 20%. That defies the conventional wisdom that men are more focused on money but it makes sense -- 2000 Census figures indicated that women still earn about 81 cents for every dollar earned by men, even when considering differences in education or experience.

Key Points

An organization that wants gender parity should recognize that much of the conventional wisdom about the sexes in the workplace no longer applies. Just about as many men and women are completely satisfied with most aspects of their careers. Happily, this suggests that improving workplace satisfaction for one sex will also improve it for the other.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 584 adults, aged 18 and older, employed full or part time, conducted Aug. 5-8, 2002. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4%.

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