What you want from an employment relationship – or, more specifically, a boss – is often tied to your needs and lifestyle. Whether you’re a single professional, one half of a working couple or a work-life-balancing mom, your idea of a satisfying employment relationship might have changed since your first job. But today, the three most important things working women say they look for in an employment relationship are appreciation for their work, career advancement opportunities and work-life balance.
When the Labor Relations Institute of New York asked employees what they wanted from their employers for a 1949 report titled, “Foreman Facts,” the number one response was “appreciation for work done.” Feeling appreciated remains one of the top three things employees, especially women, want in an employment relationship. Women want to know that managers value their work and affirm their contribution to the company, report Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre in “The Female Economy,” an article published in 2009 in the Harvard Business Review. In their research of hundreds of women in 50 organizations, participants reported feeling underestimated on the job and undervalued in the job market.
In a 2013 study, ”What Women Want @ Work,” professional social media website LinkedIn asked 5,300 women from 13 countries to identify the biggest challenges to their careers. A slight majority, 51 percent, cited “no clear career path,” and a close 47 percent cited “no investment in professional development.” The responses seem to affirm that women value opportunities to grow professionally and advance in their careers. Sarah Damaske, Ph.D., writes in her article “Earnings and Yearnings: The Real Reasons Women Work;” for “Psychology Today,” that women stay on jobs that are interesting, give them a sense of accomplishment, offer work-life balance and help raise their families’ social status. Although money seldom tops the list of most important things people want from their jobs, the psychologist writes that women also want a fair wage for the work they do.
Women are looking for flexibility in the workplace, based on the results of the LinkedIn study. Most of the respondents -- 63 percent – defined “success at work” as finding the right balance between job and personal responsibilities. When asked how they would have defined “success at work” five or 10 years ago, 56 percent cited earning a high salary as an example of success. Flexible work schedules, telecommuting opportunities, flexible spending accounts, supportive child-care and elder-care policies, and generous leave policies rate high as employee work-life benefits among women.
Finding out what kind of employment relationship to expect starts with the job interview or a visit to the worksite. Employers that value workers often hang staff photos where visitors can view them. Some workplaces have formal employee recognition programs. Job candidates who ask about staff development programs during interviews show a desire to grow professionally on the job while learning whether advancement is encouraged. Employers often promote their employee benefits programs to job candidates during interviews. By taking note of the benefits that support work-life balance, job seekers can decide whether a satisfying employment relationship is possible.
- American Psychological Association: When the Boss Is a Woman
- Harvard Business Review; The Female Economy; Michael J. Silverstein,et al:
- Psychology Today; Earnings and Yearnings: The Real Reasons Women Work; Sarah Damaske, Ph.D
- LinkedIn Blog; What Do Women Want? At Work, That Is… [INFOGRAPHIC]; Ngaire Moyes
Valerie Bolden-Barrett is a writer, editor and communication consultant specializing in best business practices, public policy, personal finance and career development. She is a former senior editor of national business publications covering management and finance, employment law, human resources, career development, and workplace issues and trends.