Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Job Attribute Preferences: Are There Gender Differences?

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Job Attribute Preferences: Are There Gender Differences?

Article excerpt


This study examines job attribute preferences of women and men through the use of a study including 120 college students in a four-year university in a suburban northeast area. Results are compared to those of a similar study conducted in the early 1980s. While some differences remain, most sex differences have decreased since the previous study. Women in the current study rated mental aspects of work such as the use of knowledge and skills and intellectual stimulation higher than did men. They also gave higher ratings to social factors including social contribution and meeting and speaking with others. Both men and women in the current study rated ample leisure time as being more important than did those in the previous study.


Sex differences in work values, have been an important area of research since the Hawthorne studies of the 1930's (Roethlisberger & Dickson, 1939/1975). An ever-growing literature on the subject (cf., Abu-Saad & Isralowitz, 1997; Bartol & Manhardt, 1979; Betz & O'Connell, 1989; Beutell & Brenner, 1986; Konrad, Ritchie, Lieb, & Corrigall, 2000; Powell, 1988; Rowe & Snizek, 1995; Schuler, 1975; Tolbert & Moen, 1998) has yielded contradictory results as some studies have found significant sex differences while others have not.

Work values, those qualities people seek from their jobs, have recently been given the term work or job attribute preferences (e.g., Konrad et al. 2000a) to distinguish them from higher moral values (Pryor, 1979) such as those described by Rokeach (1973; 1968). These job characteristics are more fundamental than interests (Super, 1970) and are associated with job satisfaction or dissatisfaction (Brief & Nord, 1990; Katzell, 1964, Knoop, 1994; Lofquist & Dawis, 1975; Wanous, 1980) as they reflect a correspondence between needs and satisfaction (Drummond & Stoddart, 1991; Zytowski, 1970). It is therefore important to understand the values or attribute preferences brought to the workplace by the men and women in today's labor force.

This study examines the current literature on gender differences in job attribute preferences, particularly the effects of socialization, organizational structure, and changes that seem to have occurred over time. It then presents the results of a survey replicating the study by Beutell and Brenner (1986) which compared women and men's ratings of the importance of 25 job attributes identified by Manhardt (1972). The findings from this study are analyzed and then compared to the earlier study.


One explanation for sex differences in work values points to organizational structure in that work opportunities, or the lack thereof, influence an individual's possibilities and preferences (Gregory, 1990; Gutek, 1993; Kaufman & Fetters, 1980, Spitz & Waite, 1980; Walker, Tausky & Oliver, 1982). Because of family obligations or discrimination, women are often confined to lower level jobs with lower earnings and less authority (Jacobs, 1992; Jencks, Perman, & Rainwater, 1988, Reskin & Ross, 1995) Rather than become frustrated at the inability to obtain better jobs, people make themselves content with job characteristics they can obtain. (Borg, 1991; Mottaz, 1986). Studies examining differences in job attribute preferences by gender and organizational position/occupation show the latter to have more influence (Brief, Rose, and Aldag, 1977; Gomez-Mejia, 1990).

Workers at lower levels of the organization, both men and women, tend to place more emphasis on extrinsic outcomes such as pay, working conditions, and social relationships with coworkers derived from the job context, while those in the higher ranks value intrinsic outcomes such as stimulating work, achievement, and autonomy based on job content (Kaufman & Fetters, 1980; Moore & Ollenberger, 1986, Spitz & Waite, 1980). …

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