Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Gender, Values, Priorities and Satisfaction in STEM Occupations

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 10:35 AM
Tuttle South (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Margaret E. Blume-Kohout, New Mexico Consortium
Psychology research identifies social belonging as a basic human need. By contrast, job satisfaction is typically characterized as deriving from factors such as financial compensation, opportunities for advancement, autonomy and independence, intellectual challenge, flexible hours, or job security. These measures provide little insight into possible interpersonal determinants of job satisfaction, including whether an individual feels they "belong" with their co-workers.

This paper combines data from several surveys to examine how science-related attitudes and perceptions, personal values, and the relative importance of various job attributes differ among men and women working in STEM occupations in comparison to those who considered careers in STEM but are working in other occupations and to those never considered a STEM career. Using multivariate binomial and ordered logistic regression models, it investigates three related hypotheses: individuals who share values and attitudes prevalent among STEM workers are more likely to have considered a career in STEM themselves, individuals in STEM (or non-STEM) occupations whose job-related priorities are consistent with prevailing priorities and attitudes among other STEM (or non-STEM) employees in their same sector express higher levels of job satisfaction than those with more dissimilar attitudes, and gendered differences in values, attitudes, and job-related priorities may help to explain women's lower rate of participation and higher rate of departure from STEM careers.

Data include the 2012 General Social Survey (GSS), the 2010 Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR), and the 2010 National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG). The 2012 GSS includes a module capturing whether the respondent considered a career in science or in engineering as well as their level of agreement or disagreement with several statements invoking positive or negative perceptions of scientists and engineers. It also asks the extent to which the individual identifies with a series of personal value statements. I find significant and gendered differences in personal values held by individuals who considered and pursued STEM careers. For example, about half of those working in STEM occupations said it was important to them to show their abilities and be admired for them. Scientists and engineers who did not share this value were significantly less likely to say they were "very satisfied" with their jobs. Only 1 in 3 women in STEM occupations identified with this value.

The 2010 SDR & NSCG each include survey the relative importance of various job attributes, and the extent to which the respondent was satisfied with those aspects of their current job. Preliminary analyses with the SDR reveal that male and female STEM PhDs are equally likely to change jobs for an increase in pay or opportunities for advancement. But, female STEM PhDs who change jobs are more likely than male counterparts to say they are doing so to improve their working conditions, or due to a change in career or professional interests. Additional analyses will examine correspondence between satisfaction with various job attributes by occupational category and employment sector, and the relative value or importance individuals place on each of these.