Even More Than Men, Women Love Their Jobs, Hate Their Pay

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"Women deserve equal pay for equal work."
-- President Barack Obama, 2014 State of the Union address

That may seem obvious, but unfortunately, equal pay regardless of gender is still far from reality in America -- a fact that women, of course, are not thrilled with. In fact, according to a recent poll by Gallup, more than anything else work-related, women in the U.S. workforce today want better pay.

Ever since World War II, women have represented a larger and larger proportion of the U.S. workforce. Over the past five decades, women have grown their representation in the labor pool by roughly 50 percent. According to Labor Department statistics, in 1960, about one in three workers in the U.S. was female. At last report, in 2010, that number had grown to nearly one in two (47 percent).

Pay for women workers has also improved. For every $1 in wages that a male worker earned in 1960, a woman working an equivalent job would have earned about 61 cents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2009, the Bureau says, that number had risen to 77 cents -- and more recently, according to the Department of Labor in 2013, to 81 cents.

So the gap has narrowed, but there's still a gap.

What Women Have, and ...

Surveying 2,076 full-time workers ages 18 and up from 2010 to 2014, Gallup discovered that by and large, women are happier with how the workplace "works" for them than men are. For example, 65 percent of women say they are satisfied with the flexibility of work hours offered to them at their job, 60 percent find their employer's vacation policy acceptable, and 50 percent say they receive recognition from their boss for their work.

In each case, these scores are 4 percentage points higher than what male workers told Gallup about their own satisfaction at work. Statistically, that's on the outer edges of what Gallup says is the survey's margin of error -- plus or minus 4 percent -- and thus Gallup confides that these scores are therefore "not statistically significant." But it sure sounds significant.

More questionable given the margin of error, but still worthy of notice, are Gallup's findings that women are 2 percentage points (54 percent) more likely than men to be satisfied with their "job security," and 2 percentage points (57 percent) happier with their bosses as well.

Both genders cite "physical safety conditions" as the workplace factor they're most pleased with -- but here, too, women are happier than men, albeit by a single percentage point (74 percent versus 73).

What Women Want

In only three categories covered by Gallup's poll do women appear less pleased with their work environment than men are: job stress, promotion opportunities, and ... pay. And as it turns out, pay is the real sticking point. (In fact, it's the single category in the survey for which Gallup is certain about the statistical significance.)

According to Gallup, women express "complete satisfaction" with the amount of money they're earning at a lower rate than men do -- 6 percentage points lower. And the satisfaction gap may be even bigger than it looks.

Consider: The percentages of women (and men) expressing complete satisfaction with their pay is already pretty small (28 percent of women versus 34 percent of men). So looked at another way, that's a bit more than one woman in four, versus one man in three, saying they're completely satisfied with their pay. Statistically speaking, that means women are only 82 percent as likely to say they're completely happy with their pay as men are.

Eighty-two percent. Coincidentally, that's almost the exact same number the Labor Department cites for the percentage of pay a woman gets today compared to the wages of a man doing the same job.
Go figure.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith is a man, and prefers to avoid raising the subject of the wage gap at cocktail parties. He also prefers to avoid attending cocktail parties. To read about our favorite high-yielding dividend stocks for any investor, check out our free report.
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