Gender Differences in Preferences for Meaning at Work

51 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2020

See all articles by Vanessa Burbano

Vanessa Burbano

Columbia Business School

Nicolas Padilla

London Business School - Department of Marketing

Stephan Meier

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Columbia Business School - Management

Abstract

In an effort to better understand occupational segregation by gender, scholars have begun to examine gender differences in preferences for job characteristics. We contend that a critical job characteristic has been overlooked to date: meaning at work; and in particular, meaning at work induced by job mission. We provide empirical evidence of the importance of gender differences in preferences for meaning at work using mixed methods. First, we demonstrate the universality of gender differences in preferences for meaning at work using a cross-country survey covering individuals in 47 countries. We show that these differences become more pronounced with greater levels of education and economic development, suggesting that their importance is likely to increase over time. To address potential social desirability bias in responses about job preferences and to examine whether differences in preferences translate into differences in important behavioral outcomes, we next conduct a conjoint analysis of a cohort of MBA students at a top US university and track their behavior over two years. We show show that preferences for meaning at work, particularly meaning induced by job mission, explain gender differences in not only types of courses taken, but also job industry placement during and after the MBA, thus helping to explain the under-representation of females in higher-paying industries. Overall, this research establishes that men and women differ in their preferences for meaning at work, with important implications for our understanding of the drivers of occupational segregation and of the consequences of corporate mission and purpose.

Keywords: job design, job preferences, gender segregation by occupation, mission, meaning at work

JEL Classification: D91, J16

Suggested Citation

Burbano, Vanessa and Padilla, Nicolas and Meier, Stephan, Gender Differences in Preferences for Meaning at Work. IZA Discussion Paper No. 13053, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3562843

Vanessa Burbano (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Nicolas Padilla

London Business School - Department of Marketing ( email )

Sussex Place
Regent's Park
London, NW1 4SA
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.nicolaspadilla.com

Stephan Meier

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston ( email )

600 Atlantic Avenue
Boston, MA 02210
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Columbia Business School - Management ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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