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Women’s Experience of Work

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Women’s Experience of Work

Up to this point our focus has been largely on structural factors and their effects on WLFP. Another major consideration is how women generally think about work and how they react to the work they do.

Orientations and Attitudes toward Labor Force Participation

Women’s and men’s orientations toward WLFP cover the whole spectrum, from “A women’s place in the home,” through “Equal pay for equal work,” to “All power to all women.” Staid economists write of women’s “taste for housework” (Cain, 1966) or “taste for market work” (Sandell, 1977). As you can see, options widely vary. However sociologists seem to agree that orientations toward WLFP are a consequence of early socialization, ongoing experiences, and perceived future prospects. However, girls ranging from kindergarten age to college age whose mothers are employed have less-traditional views of marital and sex roles (Fox & Hess-Biber, 1984,p. 50). These daughters also see women as more competent than do daughters of none employed mothers, and view women’s accomplishments more positively. Whether women or men have mothers who are in the labor force will soon become a moot point.The development of orientations toward WLFP does not stop with childhood, of course (Ferree,1980;Mason,Czajka,&Arber,1976). Orientations toward WLFP are shaped continually as people move through their careers. The interaction between orientation and experience is complex. For married women, family roles are also important. A strong orientation toward family can weaken involvement with work (Statham, Vaughn,& Houseknecht,1987). However, many women value and seek a balance between work and family. Perceptions about the future availability of job opportunities affect women’s aspirations and their willingness to invest in higher education (Ferber&McMahan,1979;Fox&Faver,1981). Ferber and McMahan believe that women’s high expectation levels, high investments in education (especially in formerly male-dominated fields), increasing labor force participation, and decreased fertility will reinforce one another and contribute to a reduction of the male-female earnings gap. This, of course, remains to be seen.

Reactions to Work

How people feel about their work depends on the work itself, the rewards it brings, and their orientation. The two main areas in which researchers have investigated women’s reactions to work have been job satisfaction and mental health.

Job Satisfaction

There have been several studies directly concerned with comparisons of female and male job satisfaction. The findings here are mixed. Current research has found that men and women are apparently equal in job satisfaction and commitment to working(Lorence,1987c;Shaw,1985). How people (both men and women) feel about their work depends on the work itself and the rewards it brings, plus their points of reference. A variety of factors have been linked to to women’s job satisfaction. For instance, women with more education and with an urban background were found to be more likely to be dissatisfied than men with comparable backgrounds, probably as a consequence of not having their skills and training fully used(Miller,Labovitz,&Fry,1975). Perhaps one of the most important factors in job satisfaction is day to day work conditions(Miller,1980). That factor is directly linked to satisfaction for both men and women, although there are slight differences in the conditions that were important for men and women. Men are ore affected by closeness of supervision, organizational structure, their position, and job protection, while women are more affected by substantive complexity of their work, the dirtiness of the work, the number of hours worked, and their income. Another important variable in the job satisfaction equation is the comparison or reference group people use. Hadson (1989) found that women reported higher satisfaction than men, despite objectively poorer jobs. The use of different comparison groups, plus the fact that men have been socialized to be more willing to vocalize their dissatisfaction, leads to this gender difference. This type of idea is supported by Loscocco and spitz’s (1991) research in which women reported lower satisfaction as they began to compare their work and its rewards with those received by men.



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