If you find yourself more satisfied with your job than you used to be, you are not alone. But if the men in your workplace are a little bit happier than the women, that's typical, too.
The Conference Board, a 107-year-old New York think tank, has conducted a periodic job satisfaction survey since 1987 — the longest-running survey of its kind in the U.S. The 2022 survey (released in May 2023) found the highest level of overall job satisfaction in the survey's history.
More than 62% of respondents reported being satisfied with their jobs overall, but that was true of just 60.1% of women compared with 64% of men. In fact, men were happier in every one of the 26 components of job satisfaction included in the survey.
Maddie San Juan, director of strategic programs and initiatives for the Women's Foundation of Arkansas, said the trend found by The Conference Board was what she would have expected.
"I'm not surprised that men are still overall happier in their jobs than women. It's a nuanced situation," San Juan said. "The pay gap still exists, women are paid less and promoted less than their male counterparts."
The satisfaction gulf between men and women was especially stark when it comes to sick day and vacation policies, bonuses and promotions, and health and mental health benefits. (The mental health question was new in 2022, added after another survey by The Conference Board found that women were significantly more likely to quit their jobs due to fatigue.)
Two subsets of respondents were notably happier than the rest:
Those who are able to work remotely, at least part of the time; and
Those who voluntarily changed jobs after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — aka "The Great Resignation."
The hybrid work model, neither 100% remote nor 100% in the office, seems to be the sweetest spot, with higher satisfaction in most areas than the other two options. But clearly there's no pleasing everyone: A quarter of fully remote workers were dissatisfied with their commute!
Respondents who go to the office every day do have one notable advantage: They are much more likely to be satisfied with their job security (68.3%) than people who work entirely from home (58.7%).
Flexibility in work hours is key, San Juan said, especially for women because they "are still the primary caregivers whether they are working or not. Child care and also elder care fall more on the shoulders of women. I think our current society and our workplace settings do not accommodate that."
When the WFA surveyed women entrepreneurs of color in 2020, San Juan said, they were asked why they chose to start their own businesses. "A super common answer was just for the flexibility… and I think that's a fair reason."
It is a management challenge to provide the kind of flexibility that each woman employee needs, she said, but "the more flexibility there is within a workplace setting, the more satisfied women will be."
Respondents to The Conference Board's survey who had chosen to quit one job and take another since the spring of 2020 were happier in every area than those who haven't changed jobs — and dramatically happier in the dollars-and-cents categories of wages, bonuses and potential for future growth.
Changing jobs created only marginally higher scores on cultural factors such as satisfaction with one's supervisor. And that's important, because individual factors that contribute to job satisfaction are not all equally important. Quality of leadership was at the top when The Conference Board ranked the 26 factors as predictors of job satisfaction, and a respondent's specific supervisor was No. 6.
(Least important as a predictor of job satisfaction: vacation policy. But as The Work Wife readers know, nearly half of workers with vacation days don't use all of them anyway.)