Women’s Professional Satisfaction

An article in the NYTimes on Sunday from three sociologists talked about what men vs. women get out of powerful jobs. The article, probably based on business critters, is about why the leadership experience is different for men and women. Both men and women perceived intrinsic rewards from feeling influential, “a lot of say on the job”, or having authority at work. Men were still feeling intrinsically rewarded without the influence, but women needed to have both. Two quotes:

“…men tend to reap more rewards from what scholars have called “symbolic power” (having objective job authority but feeling less influential).”

“For women, just having authority may not be enough (as it seems to be for many men). And so even when women do occupy the “corner suite,” so to speak, they aren’t guaranteed the personal and professional rewards men garner.”

There is lots in this article that could be argued about one way or the other. And whether these differences apply to people of color, or different generations, or different physical abilities, or any of the thousands of ways of grouping human beings, is not even addressed in this article. One point was right on target – they imply that if women don’t get the subjective rewards or intrinsic job satisfaction they would be “less inclined to stay in those positions”. No shit Sherlock.

There is, however, a parallel to this in doing science, that doesn’t necessarily split on gender lines. There are people, of all genders, for whom “symbolic power” (defined in the article as “having object job authority but feeling less influential” – probably my dept chair is the poster child for this) is very important, and clearly rewarding enough to keep doing what they are. Many of the people I know, respect and try to learn from, have given up on the idea that authority will bring them any kind of satisfaction, let alone influence. Many younger scientists I know see the writing on the wall and get the heck out of Dodge before they get sucked in.

I think that there is a rat race that goes on in the MRUs that convinces those who derive satisfaction from symbolic power, that somehow being at MRU (or a USN&WR top ranked hospital) is a reflection on how good they are. This is all churning around in my mind, because given the upheavals in my life, I am seriously considering looking for another job moving to a smaller LRU (lesser research university) where I can get away from the nonsense and infighting and sharp elbows and BSD’s that characterize where I am now. I may not care about having authority, but I do care about being able to make a difference. There I’ve said it. In writing.


2 thoughts on “Women’s Professional Satisfaction

  1. Interesting post, but maybe a little condescending and even naive to think that the “nonsense and infighting and sharp elbows…” don’t occur at smaller LRU. Academics are always academics….

  2. You are so very right about LRU. But, I’ve been at both, and I think that (maybe medical schools in particular compared to A&S colleges inside of any university) big name uni’s attract the BSD’s, the sharp elbows, and the arrogant. I know my dept chair would not consider going to anything that was not a USN&WR top 10 medical school. He has said so in the most condescending ways.

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