Do Profession al Wom en Have Lower Job
Satisfaction Than Profession al Men? Lawyers
as a Case Study
Ch arlotte Ch iu
University of California
A central paradox in studies of gender an d job satisfaction is why wom en ’s
job satisfaction is not lower than m en ’s‚ given that wom en ’s jobs are often
inferior. The explan ation m ost com mon ly used is that wom en have lower
expectations than men becau se they com pare them selves to wom en while men
com pare them selves to m en. However‚ general studies m ay be maskin g a gender
difference in higher occu pational levels.
The cu rrent study explores this possibility by analyzing the 326 lawyers in the
1990 Nation al Su rvey of Lawyers’ Career Satisfaction . Of the wom en‚ 9% were
minorities ‚ and of the men ‚ 3% . It is fou nd that women have significantly
lower job satisfaction . Wom en’s lower job satisfaction is due prim arily to their
lac k of in flu en ce and prom otio n al oppo rtu nity. Th e results support the
assertion that professional wom en have the sam e expectation s as professional
men ‚ not lower‚ bu t becau se of inequality in opportun ity‚ the wom en have lower
job satisfaction .
A ce ntral paradox in studie s of gender and job satisfaction is why women’s
job satisfaction is not lowe r than men’s‚ given that women’s jobs are often
infe rior in terms of pay‚ autonom y‚ and promotional opportunity. I have
revie wed over 30 studie s that look at gende r diffe rence s in job satisfaction
or determinants of job satisfaction. Repe ate dly in the lite rature it is state d
that the findings are inconsiste nt. Some studie s report that women have
highe r job satisfaction ‚ some studie s find that men are more satisfie d‚ and
1998 Ple num Publishing Corporation
I am grate ful to Neil Fligste in
Parrenas for helpful comments on e arlie r drafts. I would also like to thank Daniel Beale for
discussions on this subject.
To whom correspon de nce should be add ressed at Institute of In dustrial Re lations
U.C. Berke ley
CA 94720; e-mail: cchiu@ qal.be rke ley.edu.