Women occupy less fulfilling jobs than men

A recent DARES report uses data from a 2006–2007 study on ‘organisational change and computerisation’ to explore difference in perceptions of work and work atmosphere between women and men. Female participants had fewer hierarchical responsibilities and less leeway at work. They also felt less supported at work, were less satisfied by their job and pay, and less confident their work was useful. However, they benefited from more flexible and foreseeable working times.

About the study

The study, Changements organisationnels et l’informatisation (COI) [Organisational change and computerisation], carried out by DARES and the Centre for Employment Studies in 2006–2007, explored differences in perceptions of work and work atmosphere between women and men. The study’s findings (in French, 160Kb PDF) are discussed in a short report published by DARES in December 2010.

Differences between men and women at work

The study confirms findings from previous studies about differences between men and women at work, that is, the main differences between men and women at work at due to job segmentation between sexes. However, the COI study looks at new dimensions such as the perception of autonomy, satisfaction at work and the quality of the working environment.

Although more and more women are accessing professions previously occupied primarily by men, equal representation of men and women in one profession in the same sector is rare (Tables 1 and 2).

Table 1: Professions where women are the most numerous, 2006

Professional group

Total number employed

Number of women employed

% of women

% in employment

Cleaning services

1,102,000

794,000

72.1

6.8

Teachers

1,114,000

723,000

64.9

6.2

Sales

893,000

677,000

75.8

5.8

Civil servants (lowest category)

807,000

588,000

72.9

5.0

Secretarial work

508,000

497,000

97.9

4.2

Nurses’ assistants

495,000

458,000

92.5

3.9

Clerical work in enterprises

551,000

435,000

78.9

3.7

Nurses, midwives

487,000

433,000

88.9

3.7

Services to people (at home)

438,000

429,000

98.0

3.7

Social, cultural, sportive activities

598,000

400,000

66.9

3.4

Total

6,993,000

5,434,000

77.7

46.4

Total female employment

25,174,000

11,700,000

46.5

100.0

Source: Amira (2010), Table A1

Table 2: Professions where men are the most numerous, 2006

Professional group

Total number employed

Total number of men

% of men

% in employment

Drivers

761,000

694,000

91.2

5.2

Construction workers

607,000

592,000

97.5

4.4

Farmers, breeders, lumberjacks

677,000

489,000

72.2

3.6

Maintenance workers

500,000

443,000

88.7

3.3

Teachers

1,114,000

391,000

35.1

2.9

Industrial workers

455,000

389,000

85.4

2.9

Army, police, fire fighters

429,000

380,000

88.6

2.8

Processing industry workers

468,000

369,000

78.9

2.7

Trade (managers)

479,000

360,000

75.2

2.7

Trade (representatives, assistants)

507,000

327,000

64.5

2.4

Total

5,996,000

4,434,000

73.9

32.9

Total male employment

25,174,000

13,467,000

53.5

100.0

Source: Amira (2010), Table A2

Therefore, the main differences found between the sexes in the COI study are because men and women tend to occupy different jobs. These differences are explored below.

Work definition

Most employees (80%) participating in the COI survey received instructions or had to follow procedures in their work. Nevertheless, women’s work appeared less clearly defined by rules and procedures (78% of women compared with 82% of men). For example, 59% of female workers ‘had to follow strict procedures’ compared with 70% of male workers, and 58% of female workers ‘must reach precise objectives’ whereas this was the case for 64% of male workers.

Autonomy and support at work

Surprisingly, it seems that the fact that women’s work is less defined by rules and procedures does not imply more autonomy. When a woman’s supervisor or manager tells them what to do, this person is more likely to tell them how to do it (applicable to 27% of women in the survey and 18% of men). Women also more often had no choice about when to take a break (21% of women compared with 17% of men). In addition, women who had faced technical difficulties at work reported being less often able to solve the problem themselves (37% of women compared with 54% of men).

Management

In France, the title of ‘manager’ does not automatically imply the management of other workers and, indeed, only 62% of male managers and 49% of female managers are actually responsible for the work of others. The data show that not only do fewer women have the title of manager, but when they are in charge of colleagues, they tend to supervise fewer people than their male counterparts.

Working hours and workloads

According to the COI data, men’s working hours seem to be longer, stricter and less foreseeable. Only 17% of the men surveyed could choose their working hours whereas 27% of the women could do so. Men also tended to work evenings and nights more than women. However, women tended to occupy jobs that allowed them to cope better with their family responsibilities. The data from the COI study do not allow analysis of whether women’s working conditions are adapted to their family situations or if women choose such jobs.

Although the working schedule of female participants in the study was less constraining, they reported being overloaded at work more often than the male participants. The pressure felt by women seemed to be related to their family situation; this did not seem to be the case for men (see figure below).

Feeling of being overloaded at work at least once a week (%)

Feeling of being overloaded at work at least once a week (%)

Source: Amira (2010), Figure 1

Job satisfaction

Possibly related to the fact that women’s work seems to be less autonomous than men’s, female participants in the COI study reported being less fulfilled by their job. They also more often had doubts as to whether their work was useful. Last but not least, they were less satisfied with their pay and professional recognition (Table 3).

Table 3: Pay and recognition by gender (%)
 

Women

Men

Total

Your work is useful to others

88.1

92.9

91.3

Your work is fairly recognised

37.9

46.7

43.7

For full-time workers: Given the work you do, you are paid …
Well or very well

13.5

15.6

14.8

Correctly

46.0

53.2

50.8

Badly or very badly

40.5

31.2

34.4

Source: Amira (2010), Table 9

Commentary

The COI study found significant differences between men and women that might be related to differences in employment; sectors, occupations and positions vary greatly by gender. However, it seems that less autonomy, fewer responsibilities and less money are good reasons why women would be less fulfilled by their jobs.

Reference

Amira, S. (2010), Les femmes occupent des emplois où le travail semble moins épanouissant (160Kb PDF), Dares Analyses, December 2010, No. 082.

Sarah Mongourdin-Denoix, HERA

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Eurofound welcomes feedback and updates on this regulation

Add new comment