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Promotions Affect Men and Women’s Job Satisfaction Very Differently

This is depressing.

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Being promoted to a manager position seems like a good thing: you’ll likely get a better salary, perhaps a corner office and have more responsibilities. But new research published in SAGE Journals found that only men experience an increase in job satisfaction when they get promoted to a manager role, while women become significantly less satisfied.

Researcher Daniela Lup, a senior lecturer in quantitative sociology at Middlesex University in London, writes about her findings in the Harvard Business Review.

Lup points to previous research showing that many of the perks of getting a promotion, like “job autonomy and decision power, as well as higher occupational prestige,” have been shown to positively impact job satisfaction. But, as Lup notes, “female managers’ experiences are more complex than that.”

Lup used 10 years worth of longitudinal data that included information on thousands of men and women promoted to both lower and upper-level management roles in the UK. She found that while there’s no “statistically significant gap” in job satisfaction between men and women before a promotion to a manager-level role, the gap grows at the time of the promotion and gets even wider one year later.

As to why this happens, Lup writes that many female managers reported that accepting a promotion comes with its fair share of obstacles, like “having their legitimacy contested, their contributions undervalued, and being excluded from powerful networks.” She also notes that her findings are consistent with the “glass ceiling” hypothesis arguing that, in general, work is more difficult for women, especially as they try to climb the ranks.

Lup also looked at whether being promoted to lower versus upper-level management made a difference. She found that regardless what level manager position people were promoted to, men were satisfied in their jobs at the time of the promotion and a year later. “The results for women were markedly different,” she writes. Women promoted to lower management did not report an increase in job satisfaction—it stayed pretty much the same during and after the promotion. But women promoted to upper-management reported a “significant decrease in satisfaction after the first year,” she writes.

This, in turn, creates a vicious cycle: women will be less likely to keep seeking promotions if they’re unhappy, which will prune the already small group of women vying for top jobs, while men stay—and continue to get—happier in their roles.

But there may be ways to challenge this trend on an organizational and individual level. One way to do this, Lup writes, is for women seeking these promotions to “find ways to get a realistic assessment of the difficulties encountered by female managers,” and prepare accordingly, specifically by finding mentors who have been there before.

Read the full article on the Harvard Business Review

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