Pay and position | An unfair pandemic? Gender inequality in the workplace

An unfair pandemic? Gender inequality in the workplace

By Lord Mark Price, Founder, WorkL for Business

The ‘gender workplace happiness gap’ is something WorkL for Business has been monitoring for some time now.

Back in 2018 we were pleased to report that our data showed no difference between women and men in rating their happiness in the workplace. Of course, we recognised there was still a long way to go to achieve equality in terms of pay and position, but it was certainly a step in the right direction.

Three years and one pandemic later the workplace happiness gap is starting to re-emerge slightly with notable differences in how men and women rate their happiness at work. Our data shows overall, since the start of the pandemic, men have been slightly happier than women in the workplace with men scoring 69% and women 67%. However, women are happier than men working at home.

More than 100,000 individuals have taken the workplace survey devised by WorkL so far and we have witnessed a boost in average workplace happiness scores, going from 64% pre-covid to 72% since the pandemic hit.

Our tests measure factors such as working environment, relationship with line manager, sense of purpose and career progression.

If we delve deep into the data we can get an understanding as to how men and women have rated their workplace happiness during a year of lockdowns and zooms.

When it comes to job type, women are more likely to work in Admin and Sales & customer service, and less likely to be Managers & Directors, Skilled Trades or Machine operatives than men. Happiness within different job types tends to be similar for women and men, with the most notables difference being that men in Sales & customer service are noticeably happier than women. The Happiest employees are Managers & Directors, who are more likely to be men. These results suggest that differences between women and men are driven by the types of job they do.

If we look at industry women are less likely to be employed in the Manufacturing, Transport, Construction and Professional & scientific sectors, but more likely to be employed in the Health & social work, and Education sectors. In the Construction, Agriculture & utilities and Professional & scientific sectors women are less happy than their male counterparts. These are also sectors with more male employees. These results may suggest that industries which have a more balanced workforce are happier places for females to work. WorkL allows people to find out how companies score, with live data on the happiest sectors.

If we compare those working from home and those still in the office, women score higher than their male colleagues, scoring 72% compared with 71%. Have those women working from home perhaps finally achieved the flexible working they have been asking for? Ditching the commute and being able to spend more time with family has perhaps increased women’s happiness scores. Although this has come with huge challenges which need to be recognised, such as increased caring duties particularly for parents who have grappled with home schooling whilst working at home.

If we take a closer look at our data and compare how women in the office and women at home rate their happiness, we can see the top benefits for women at home are:

  • Empowerment (74.8% WFH v 66.5% WFO)

  • Job satisfaction (73.9% WFH v 66.7% WFO)

  • Well-being (78.5% WFH v 64.1% WFO)

Women working from home were significantly happier with their well-being than those women who continued to work in the office. They scored 14% more in this area than their peers still working in the office. Again, having autonomy over their own workspace and dropping the commute has contributed to a significant uptake in people’s wellbeing at work.

However, when looking more closely at wellbeing we can see overall that men feel less anxious or depressed at work, with a notable 5% difference in how they scored for this question compared to women.

Overall men also feel happier with their working environment seeing a 3% difference when compared to women. Men also score higher when asked if they feel happy at work (68% to 66%).

When it comes to how happy male and female managers are, managers tend to be happier than non-managers, and women are also less likely to be managers (29% compared with 41% for males). For managers, the scores are very similar for males and females, while for non-managers women have notably lower scores for Well-being, Empowerment and Reward & recognition.

The past year has undoubtedly been a challenge for many and it’s important for employers to recognise how happy their workforce has been and the differences between men and women’s experiences. The autonomy provided by working from home has clearly been one of the positives which employees have embraced and thrived from. Employers should recognise this and aim to, as must as possible, support employees and empower them in the workplace, be it at home or in the office. This next year will see many businesses move to hybrid working and it will be interesting to see what impact this has on people’s happiness at work.

To keep track of how the global workforce feel about their working lives, take a look at our free reports published each month with up-to-date analysis.

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