Promotion to higher management makes women less satisfied with their jobs

Promotion to higher management roles makes women less satisfied with their job, new research shows.

Dr Daniela Lup found that even in workplaces with more flexibility, good pay and promotion opportunities, women were less satisfied with their jobs after they were made a higher manager.

Dr Lup, of Middlesex University London, analysed survey data on 13,000 men and women employees in the UK in the first study to track a large group of promoted staff over time.

In an article published today [Sunday 20 August], in the journal Work, Employment and Society, run by the British Sociological Association, she said that men’s job satisfaction rose when they were promoted to lower and higher management, and stayed higher.

However, women promoted to lower management roles did not experience an increase in job satisfaction, and those promoted to higher management experienced a decline in job satisfaction after a year.

“Results indicate that promotions to management are accompanied by an increase in job satisfaction for men but not for women,” she says in the article.

“The most disadvantaged are women promoted to higher-level management, whose job satisfaction starts declining in the post-promotion period.”

Dr Lup’s study shows that the gender gap in job satisfaction after managerial promotions does not always arise from overt discriminatory factors such as differences in pay, in promotion opportunities or access to flexible work arrangements.

Instead, the study suggests, it often reflects subtle forms of discrimination that arise from widespread beliefs, held by both men and women, that women are less able managers. This stereotype, when held by the staff of women managers, will diminish women’s authority in front of their subordinates, said Dr Lup.

“Given that managers’ performance and, implicitly, their job satisfaction depend to a great extent on the quality of their interaction with subordinates, if some of these individuals perceive women as less competent managers, they are less likely to accept women’s authority and less likely to support their manager. Overall, this will have a negative impact on women manager’s performance and their satisfaction with the job.  

“Another factor with detrimental effects on women’s managerial experiences is their limited access to support from high-status contacts, in part due to women’s exclusion from ‘old boys clubs’.”

Dr Lup says that companies typically assume that women need primarily more work flexibility, more developmental effort and more promotion opportunities. However, “the results of this study show that although all these factors have a positive impact on women’s, and men’s, job satisfaction, after controlling for these factors women managers are still worse off than their male peers.

“If the glass ceiling is to be shattered, organizations should not only focus on removing overt barriers that prevent women from advancing on the managerial ladder, but also pay close attention to the actual experiences that women have once they reach positions of authority. To the extent that women managers have more difficult experiences than men, fewer are likely to seek further promotions.”

Around 6% of men were higher managers, and 20% lower managers – the figures were 2% and 16% for women.

For more information, please contact: 

Tony Trueman
British Sociological Association
Tel: 07964 023392


1. Dr Lup used data from 6,965 women and 6,069 men employees aged 16-65 recorded as part of the British Household Panel Survey from 1999-2008. This study was the first large-scale research to track promoted staff over time.

2. The article is entitled ‘Something to celebrate (or not): the differing impact of promotion to manager on the job satisfaction of women and men’, published online in Work, Employment and Society, one of the journals run by the British Sociological Association and SAGE.

3. The British Sociological Association’s charitable aim is to promote sociology. The BSA is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 3890729. Registered Charity Number 1080235