STUDY: Women May Avoid Leadership Position Out of Unhappiness

By Published on May 17, 2017

The lack of women in leadership positions could be because women aren’t happy in those positions, new research suggests.

A paper by Dr. Hilke Brockmann and fellow researchers Anne-Maren Koch, Adele Diederic and Christofer Edling shows that women in management positions are significantly less happy than men in the same leadership positions. 

“Women feel less happy than men when they occupy managerial positions, and expect to make more tradeoffs between life and work in high level positions. This points to a different way of understanding the problem and potentially solving it,” Francesca Gino writes in a Scientific American analysis of the paper.

The researchers surveyed 27,000 non-managers and 3,174 managers in Germany. About 33 percent of the participants were women. They asked the participants “How happy are you at present with your life as a whole?” based on scale of one to ten, with ten being the most happy. Women and men who didn’t have managerial positions had the same amount of happiness, researchers found. 

Women in managerial positions, however, reported less happiness than their male peers. Women reported a 7 for happiness, while most of the men gave a 7.3.

“While men reported an average level of life satisfaction of about 7.3, their female, manager counterparts reported about a 7. Climbing up the organizational ladder, it seems, is a source of happiness for men but not for women,” Gino notes in Scientific American.

Gino points out that this research shows that there are other reasons besides discrimination for why women don’t hold many leadership positions. Women understand that gaining power in the workforce requires sacrifice, she adds.

“The reason is that they see the position generating not only positive outcomes (such as money and prestige) as much as men do, but also negative ones (such as tradeoffs they’ll need to make and time constraints). That’s where men and women differ: in how much they predict these negative outcomes will affect their lives,” Gino says.

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