Women happier at work when there are fewer men, according to UBC research

Women feel happier at work when they're surrounded by co-workers of the same gender — which doesn't appear to be the case for their male counterparts, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia.

Researchers say study results shows a need to dispel gender stereotypes

Women are happier at work when they have more female than male colleagues, according to a UBC study. (Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock)

Women feel happier at work when they're surrounded by co-workers of the same gender — which doesn't appear to be as much of the case for their male counterparts, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia. 

The study, published last month in the Journal of Happiness Studies, examined the self-reported well-being of 4,486 employees in the U.S. between 2010 and 2013.

UBC sociology professor Yue Qian, one of the lead writers of the study, said women also feel lower levels of meaningfulness at work as the percentage of their male colleagues increases.

"We find that the relationship is actually quite linear. So as the said male occupation increases women's feelings of unpleasantness increases as well," Qian said. 

Women in male-dominated occupations face negative stereotypes and higher performance standards than their male co-workers, Qian said, and often hear doubts from male coworkers.

They're also more likely to get less workplace support and experience sexual harassment. 

Privileging men and masculinity

But men in female-dominated jobs don't appear to have the same negative correlation, according to the study.

The authors say this finding highlights "the structures, norms, and expectations of work and occupations in the United States continue to privilege men and masculinity over women and femininity." 

The study says men in female-dominated workplaces maintain their masculinity and male privilege through formal and informal ways, such as being promoted into "male-identified—and typically higher-status—specialties, job tasks, or leadership positions."

The implications of the study are far-reaching, according to the researchers, since most adults spend almost half their waking hours at work — and happiness at work is associated with key outcomes like absenteeism and turnover.

The researchers point out that women now make up almost half of the work force in the United States, even though they are often segregated into female-dominated jobs. 

Redefining masculinity and femininity

Qian says simply hiring more women in male-dominated jobs isn't enough of a solution. 

"The goal is to reduce the cultural devaluation of women and femininity. And at the same time we want to ... promote a redefinition of masculinity and femininity," Qian said. 

The study proposes policies to ensure people are evaluated on their performance, and not their gender. It also suggest education campaigns to dispel gender stereotypes.

With files from Eva Uguen-Csenge