Sex and job satisfaction

Inside Higher Ed has an article today about a survey of Assistant Professors at R-1 universities and their relative job satisfaction.  Interestingly, “these satisfaction gaps vary by discipline. In many measures of satisfaction with various policies or conditions, the gaps between men and women are not statistically significant in many disciplines, but are significant in others, especially in the social sciences.”  To be sure, men appear to have higher job satisfaction than women across the board:

The finding is significant and potentially challenging to many universities, because the social sciences, on average, are more likely to have significant numbers of women in departments than are some other fields. “The fact that these differences cut across disciplines and, in fact, are most evident in disciplines in which women are relatively well-represented is important to keep in mind,” said Cathy Trower, research director of COACHE, which is based at Harvard University. In other words, any university that thinks it has solved problems related to gender just by recruiting a critical mass of women may find otherwise.

Some gaps in job satisfaction (all with men as happier than women) were evident across several disciplinary categories. These job areas include: reasonableness of scholarship expectations for tenure; the way professors spend their time as faculty members; the number of hours they work as faculty members; the amount of time they have to conduct research; their ability to balance work and home responsibilities; and whether their institutions make raising children and the tenure track compatible.

“Social Sciences” is hardly as cohesive a collection of disciplines as Humanities or Natural Sciences, in my opinion.  (And I really hate it when they include History as a Social Science!  Please.  The linked summary report doesn’t appear to specify the disciplines included in each metacategory, so I don’t know if History is included in Social Sciences or in Humanities.)  Their emphases, subjects of inquiry, and methodologies are very widely disparate.  (Sociology versus Economics, anyone?)  Here’s more analysis from the article:

Barbara M. Fraumeni, chair of the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession and chair of the Ph.D. program in public policy at the University of Southern Maine, said that her committee regularly documents the pipeline issues in the field. The latest report on doctoral granting institutions— consistent with recent years — notes that far larger shares of those earning doctorates are women than are associate professors and that the associate share is far larger than the full professor share. Fraumeni said that women have been earning doctorates in the field for long enough that the lack of female full professors is something that needs an explanation.

“In economics, I would be surprised if women weren’t less satisfied than men,” she said. (She also noted that, within the social sciences, economics has more of a gender gap in total numbers than do other fields.)

Fraumeni said she regularly hears from frustrated female economists who feel that they are passed over for promotions in favor of men. She said she just heard from someone (not at her campus) who described how two men with lesser qualifications were promoted, and that the chair talked about these men as “being like sons” to him.

I don’t know what to make of the data, since I’m not a social scientist.  (BTW, as usual for articles that discuss gender at IHE, just ignore the a$$y comments.  There must be some very aggrieved men out there just waiting to pounce whenever Scott Jaschik posts an article that dares to suggest any feminist analysis of a problem in higher ed.)  Some of the other reasons proffered for the dissatsifaction among women in the Social Sciences sound to me very, very similar to the dissatisfactions among women historians (the isolating nature of the work, and the difficulty of winning tenure if one’s research is on women’s or gender issues.) 

What’s your theory, social scientists?  (And do you have a model for it?  Have you run it past your IRB?)

0 thoughts on “Sex and job satisfaction

  1. Funny how it’s d00dz who claim that “work” (i.e. the privileged kind) and “love” (i.e. access to subordinate sex partners who focus on their needs) are indispensable to happiness.

    Can’t have those wimmenz thinking that they can do without “work” (the unprivileged toil kind) and “love” (ditto, sometimes).


  2. I actually agree with Freud–I don’t *think* his advice was only for men. (But then I’m not a Freud historian.) Love and work (broadly defined) are necessary ingredients for happiness (broadly defined.) At least, they work for me, and it seems like the absence of either love or employment are major traumas for most adults.

    Does anyone want to talk about why social scientists have such a large gender gap in their reletive job satisfaction ratings?


  3. Freud probably thought he was talking about everyone, but his generalization has some pretty thick gender and class bias. You can interpret Arbeiten broadly and humanely if you like, but I think it has the connotation of labor/toil at least as much as exalted d00dly occupations. (I don’t want to go Godwin so won’t mention the slogan over the Auschwitz gate.) Both Lieben und Arbeiten contain oppressive aspects for the majority of the world’s people.

    Anyway, back to the topic: I can’t say why working in the social sciences correlates with discontent among female assistant professors but I wonder whether bean-counting has something to do with it. The social sciences emphasize measurement, and if you’re trained to measure, you might be extra galled by the gender unfairness around you. And as the story pointed out, you don’t have the comfort of working in a lab, which eases isolation for people in the hard sciences.


  4. Historiann — I’m there with you on the whole “History shouldn’t be a Social Science” but with my institution celebrating a fiftieth anniversary, I chalk that up to the time in which it was created!

    Anyway, getting back to the survey, I think it would be interesting (if impossible) to go back and follow up with definitions/experiences from the men and women as to what they understand by some of the following: “reasonableness of scholarship expectations for tenure; the way professors spend their time as faculty members; the number of hours they work as faculty members; the amount of time they have to conduct research; their ability to balance work and home responsibilities; and whether their institutions make raising children and the tenure track compatible.”

    In other words, I expect that you’ll find in some areas, that men and women perceive and experience very different expectations. Are the women faculty members being put on more time-consuming committees (or asked to bring refreshments?) while the men are being strategically protected? That’s happened at some institutions.

    Is a woman’s scholarship downgraded or minimized when it’s time for tenure review as compared to the work of a man? (I’d say this could also be true given the number of studies on “perceived worth” of men versus women when names are substituted on identical resumes/cvs.)

    And don’t get me started on the whole work/life balance. Women are told, inside and outside of academe, that they are always doing it wrong or not well enough. They’re not enough of a woman for ‘their man’. They’re not good enough mothers if they don’t home-school and grow their own fresh produce and get their kids involved in exactly the right number of extracurriculars. And they’re certainly not good enough to get by dressing shabbily or carrying twenty pounds too many in terms of how they’re evaluated by society and peers. Is it surprising that women tend to come down on this across the board?

    Look at the list of fields where women feel balancing their professional and personal lives are problematic and men don’t (at least not at the same rate): “Humanities; social sciences; biological sciences; visual and performing arts; engineering, computer science and mathematics; health and human ecology; agriculture, natural resources and environmental sciences; business; education; medical schools and health professions.”

    What is NOT on that list? I can’t see anything missing.


  5. research director of COACHE

    Why the fuck do these fucking big program fuckwads always have to make up some stupid motherfucking smarmy pompous acronym for their stupid fucking big program? Jeezus fuck, that shit rubs me the wrong way.


  6. I’m quite unsure what to make of this report.

    If you expect to get screwed a lot, and you only get screwed a little, you might rate your experience as okay. That is, I’m not sure how to evaluate the apparent differences across disciplines without knowing what expectations folks brought to their jobs. It’s also possible that folks in different disciplines are socialized differently with regard to gendered treatment and attitudes and thus interpret the same sorts of experiences in different ways.


  7. Well, maybe social sciences are more male dominated departments than humanities departments, and said social sciences men are more conservative? I have anecdotal evidence to this effect but no study.


  8. While I cannot compare to the humanities or hard sciences, my experience in a social science does reflect this. In my department there is little support for female scholars, a lot of woman-on-woman “fighting”, women’s work is less-valued, women get the less desired courses and time slots, women get less funding, etc., etc. It’s no wonder there are fewer female faculty–we get disillusioned as grad students and flee to the private sector.


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