Why a promotion to manager increases job satisfaction for men (but not women)

18 May 2018 -

PromotionFemale managers report more difficulties after promotion than their male peers

Jermaine Haughton

A promotion to management level is supposed to be a positive experience for ambitious professionals aiming to climb the ladder to the C-Suite. However, research shows that women experience significant obstacles as a manager, which impacts upon their job satisfaction.


Sociologist Daniela Lup, from Middlesex University, found that although there was no significant difference in levels of job satisfaction between men and women before promotion, the difference grows substantially at the time of the promotion and increases during the post-promotion period.

Whether women were promoted to lower management roles such as ‘team leader’ or into upper management posts including ‘chief operating officer’ their experience of the job still suffered, according to the report.

Lower level female managers saw their job satisfaction remain relatively flat during the promotion period and in the post-promotion period, while senior managers’ morale fell after only a year in the post. By comparison, Lup’s analysis found the average male felt a positive lift in job satisfaction regardless of management role.

Lup’s findings correlate with other research. Hilke Brockmann’s analysis of 27,000 non-managers and 3,174 managers between 1984-2911 found female managers reported slightly lower life satisfaction than their male counterparts.


The causes for dissatisfaction are varied, from a lack of personal time to a lack of respect from subordinates.

We know from the CMI Quality of Working Life report that managers of both sexes are working an extra 44 days per year more than their contracted hours owing to the ‘always-on’ culture that dictates they are engaged in professional life at all times.

A study led by Ekaterina Netchaeva, from Bocconi University, conducted a series of experiments that found men act more aggressively toward hypothetical female bosses. The researcher suggested it could be because they feel threatened by the women's authority.

Female managers can also have problems with fellow women. Research from Massey University suggested that women expect female managers to be more emotionally supportive than men, and when that it is not fulfilled, the person may hold a grudge. Alternatively, the study theorises men are not held to the same expectations and their empathy is likely to be perceived as a welcome bonus.

Read more: five reasons we need to show emotion in the boardroom

This is worrying for employers, as it signifies stirring discontent experienced by female managers at a time when many organisations are under public pressure to redress the gender imbalance in senior decision-making positions at the UK’s top firms. We know from the Blueprint for Balance report that male managers are 40% more likely than female managers to be promoted.

Read more: The shocking statistics about gender discrimination behind the Blueprint for Balance report

Theoretically, some women could be put off from taking on senior roles, even if they are fully qualified, due to knowledge of the poor experiences of their female peers and how the advancement can be detrimental to job satisfaction. This reduces the number of female candidates available for top roles, potentially preventing talented people with diverse and innovative approaches from contributing to company growth.


Therefore, using employee satisfaction surveys consistently to identify gender-related gaps in satisfaction and provide additional opportunities for both genders to express their views could help organisations maintain happiness across all management levels. Read on for how to create the perfect staff satisfaction survey.

How to create the perfect staff satisfaction survey

For more information on encouraging gender diversity in the workplace visit the Blueprint for Balance hub, where you’ll find information and solutions for discrimination including new gender pay gap data.

For general details about the campaign visit the dedicated site CMI Women and follow the topic on Twitter on #CMIWomen

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