Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Do Women Want (in the workplace)?

I just ran across an interesting post from the New York Times about gender and level of satisfaction with one’s job. A study found that women need to make far less money than men do in order to find their jobs fulfilling.

Part of the explanation could be that women tend to work jobs more in fields like education or healthcare where they can see themselves making a tangible difference in another person’s life. So a woman making $50,000 as a teacher who gets to see her students develop might really feel satisfied. But a male investment banker getting that salary can’t credibly claim he’s doing anything useful to help others. In fact, he might feel bored by using excel spreadsheets hours on end each day, or reading through memos to make sure every comma is in the right place.

Plus society has traditionally judged women less on how much they make. A man who’s not making as much as he might like often has most of his self-worth wrapped up into his compensation because that’s how he’s been raised. Women on the other hand have not traditionally internalized that message. Given the strength of feminist ideology in the past couple of decades though, I wonder if girls growing up today will continue to follow that pattern.

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