Although a study like this basically falls squarely in the Duh file (as in, did anyone really think the best job for women—or anyone—would be a blue-collar job with scant education requirements and shitty insurance?) the differing specifics of what determines "job satisfaction" for women and men is kind of interesting.
Among the 80% of people who claimed that they'd be applying to new jobs in the New Year, it's obvious from the analysis of MBA applicants in the last few years that more women are considering mid-career switches. Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., the author of Best Jobs for the 21st Century, analyzed the best possible careers for women in 2013 by looking at the jobs with the highest reports of employee satisfaction. The factors involved in this ranking are 1. opportunities [for the employee] to use their skills and abilities, 2. job security, 3. communication between employees and senior management, and 4. compensation. (The men surveyed, meanwhile, played a higher emphasis on compensation and listed the actual job itself as a leading cause of satisfaction.) Shatkin also used data from the National Survey of College Graduates, annual earning medians, projected growth of the specific career through 2020, and total annual openings in said career as reported by the Department of Labor.
He found that female satisfaction levels hit the top percentile in high-energy professions that require a major investment of education and time: female lawyers, judges, top-level managers and executives. The percentage of women who follow these career paths has shot up since 1963 (all from the single-digits to just over about 40%).
But the very highest-ranked profession in terms of satisfaction for women was found to be that of a medical doctor (physicians, dentists and optometrists), which found 60% of women reporting very high satisfaction levels, not to mention a median salary of $121,000. Close behind were health professionals (including registered nurses, pharmacists and dieticians), non-practicing medical scientists and psychologists.
Aside from the intellectual satisfaction that one of these careers in the health industry provides, Shatkin also hypothesizes that the autonomy involved ("on-the-job decision-making latitude, control over your work schedule or the freedom to elect how and where to work") also contributed to the overall positivity of women in these positions. Also, as the Forbes piece reporting Shatkin's findings points out:
physician assistants, nurse aides and paralegals often manage the administrative and routine work, allowing the professional to focus on the work they were trained for.
Another interesting point: women who are the minority in male-dominated fields also report a high satisfaction rate, e.g. actuaries (29% women) and petroleum engineers (5% women). Shatkin says that this may be the case because "the women who pursue typically masculine jobs, bravely bucking employment gender norms, likely have a strong personality fit and talent for the work, which would contribute to higher satisfaction levels."
'The Best Jobs For Women In 2013' [Forbes]
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