Women in government report more satisfaction than male colleagues

More men than women, however, perceive agency leadership as fair and empowering.

Women in the federal workforce were slightly more satisfied with their jobs in 2011 than their male colleagues, according to a new survey from the Partnership for Public Service.

That’s a switch from 2010, when the nonprofit reported a higher satisfaction score for male federal employees than female workers. Still, the two genders are pretty close when it comes to feeling positive about their jobs: Women reported a job satisfaction score of 67.1 out of a scale of 100 last year while men reported 66.4 points. In 2010, men registered a workplace satisfaction score that was 1.8 points higher than women’s.

Overall employee satisfaction decreased slightly in 2011, down from 65 points to 64 out of 100. The Partnership said the drop was not surprising “given the challenging economic and political environment.”

The analysis is part of the Partnership’s annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government report based on data from the 2011 Federal Employment Viewpoint Survey.

The analysis found the biggest gender gap was in the areas of fairness and empowerment when assessing agency leadership. Women were 3.4 points less satisfied than men regarding fairness; women also felt less empowered in 2011, scoring 2.1 points lower than their male colleagues. Both those scores, however, were improvements over 2010.

Even so, agencies need to better explore issues of fairness to create a more inclusive environment, the report noted. “Women, for example, said they would be less likely than men to disclose a suspected violation of any law, rule or regulation without fear of reprisal,” the analysis said. “They also were less satisfied than men about their involvement in decisions about their work, and they were more likely than men to believe that arbitrary action, personal favoritism and coercion for partisan political purposes would be tolerated.”

Interestingly, the Small Business Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had high leadership fairness scores governmentwide -- NRC had the highest -- but both agencies also reported the largest gender gap in that category. “As always, the governmentwide scores tell one story, but the agency specific information offers another perspective,” said the report.

The analysis also looked at job satisfaction among racial and ethnic groups in the government workforce. Asian employees, who comprise 5.6 percent of the federal workforce, reported the highest job satisfaction (71.7 points) in 2011, while the differences among blacks, Hispanics and whites were relatively small, the Partnership found. “Asians were the most satisfied in almost every workplace category surveyed except for pay, an issue that brought the highest satisfaction level among white respondents, who comprise 66.2 percent of all federal workers,” the analysis said. According to 2010 data from OPM, the federal workforce is 33.8 percent minority compared to 29.7 percent in the overall labor force.

Asian employees also reported a more positive view of their agency’s support for workplace diversity than did other racial and ethnic groups. Employees of all racial and ethnic groups, however, gave higher ratings to their managers on diversity issues than to their agency’s policies and programs designed to promote diversity.