Women’s Jobs Are More Stressful And Less Flexible Than Men’s

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In 27 developed countries, women’s jobs are not just lower paid than men’s, but they also offer less flexibility and fewer advancement opportunities while inducing more stress, according to a new study from SAGE and the British Sociological Association.

The researchers, Professor Haya Stier of Tel Aviv University and Professor Meir Yaish of the University of Haifa, looked at survey data from 8,500 working men and 9,000 women in a wide swath of countries, including the United States. They found that on a scale of one to five, men’s answers were 8 percent more positive than women’s when it came to their income and their opportunities for promotion.

Men were also much more likely to report flexibility and independence: they scored 15 percent higher when it came to whether their employers decide start and end times, how their schedule is organized, and whether they can take time off, and they scored 2 percent higher in terms of how independently they can work, their ability to improve their skills, and how interesting their work is. Meanwhile, they scored 5 percent lower than women when it came to stress levels. They also report more job security.

The only area where women scored better than men was in physical demands, as men’s jobs are more likely to be difficult or dangerous.

The report “runs counter to the expectation that women’s occupations compensate for their low wages and limited opportunities for promotion by providing better employment conditions,” the researchers point out. The research “does not support the claim that women enjoy a more relaxed and convenient work environment to compensate for their lack of achievement.”

American women who work full-time, year-round still make 77 percent of what men make. That gap is sometimes attributed to women’s different choices, in particular the idea that women are less likely to seek out advancement or more likely to take less demanding jobs so that they have a better ability to care for children. But women tend work in low-wage jobs — they are two-thirds of the country’s minimum wage workers — that offer little flexibility. These jobs are far less likely to offer a paid day off if they or their family members get sick, for example.

In professional settings, women are less likely to be granted flexible work schedules when they ask for them than men, in part because managers don’t trust women to balance work and family life. Women are also less likely to be given paid leave when they need it, including extended leave to care for themselves, a new baby, or a sick family member.

The inflexibility they face stands in stark contrast to the idea that women trade lower pay for better working conditions. It also tends to push them out of work altogether. Being a caretaker makes a woman more likely to leave the labor force but has no such impact on men. Nearly 30 percent of mothers have had to quit their job to care for someone over their lifetimes, compared to just 10 percent of fathers.

Women also can’t necessarily trade up for higher pay by entering a different field. They make less than men in nearly every occupation and in every industry.