Women with managerial careers are significantly less satisfied with their life than their male counterparts. Why? In a representative German panel dataset (GSOEP) we find biological constraints and substitutive mechanisms determining the subjective well-being of female managers. Women’s terminated fertility has a negative impact on women’s life satisfaction between the ages of 35 and 45, when managerial careers usually take off. Money and spare time can compensate for this biological difference. But to maintain an equivalent level of happiness, women need to be compensated by much more income for each hour of spare time given up than men do. So, in order to reach better gender equality in leadership positions, women must be either paid higher incomes (on average around 10%) or must be incentivized with more spare time than men. In the conclusion, we speculate on a new mix of carrots and sticks for advanced careers in order to boost female representation in leadership positions.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
According to the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO-88), published by the International Labor Organization (ILO), this includes legislators, senior officials, corporate managers and general managers. In the following text, we will use the expressions managerial jobs and leadership positions interchangeably.
Aaker, J. L., Rudd, M., & Mogilner, C. (2011). If money does not make you happy, consider time. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 21(2), 126–130.
Aguiar, M., & Hurst, E. (2007). Measuring trends in leisure: The allocation of time over five decades. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 122(3), 969–1006.
Anxo, D., Mencarini, L., Pailhé, A., Solaz, A., Tanturri, M. L., & Flood, L. (2011). Gender differences in time use over the life course in France, Italy, Sweden, and the US. Feminist Economics, 17(3), 159–195.
Becker, G. S. (1965). A theory of the allocation of time. The Economic Journal, 75(299), 493–517.
Berger, E. M. (2013). Happy working mothers? Investigating the effect of maternal employment on life satisfaction. Economica, 80(317), 23–43.
Bianchi, S. M. (2011). Family change and time allocation in American families. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 638(1), 21–44.
Bianchi, S. M., Robinson, J. P., & Milke, M. A. (2006). The changing rhythms of American family life. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Bird, C. E., & Fremont, A. M. (1991). Gender, time use, and health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 32(2), 114–129.
Bittman, M. (2004). Parenting and employment. What time-use surveys show. In N. Folbre & M. Bittman (Eds.), Family time: The social organization of care (pp. 152–170). Hove: Psychology Press.
Bittman, M., England, P., Sayer, L., Folbre, N., & Matheson, G. (2003). When does gender trump money? Bargaining and time in household work. American Journal of Sociology, 109(1), 186–214.
Bittman, M., & Wajcman, J. (2000). The rush hour: The character of leisure time and gender equity. Social Forces, 79(1), 165–189.
Blair-Loy, M. (2003). Competing devotions: Career and family among women executives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Blakemore, J. E. O., Lawton, C. A., & Vartanian, L. R. (2005). I can’t wait to get married: Gender differences in drive to marry. Sex Roles, 53(5–6), 327–335.
Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2008). Is well-being u-shaped over the life cycle? Social Science and Medicine, 66(8), 1733–1749.
Blossfeld, H. (2009). Educational assortative marriage in comparative perspective. Annual Review of Sociology, 35, 513–530.
Booth, A. L., & Van Ours, J. C. (2008). Job satisfaction and family happiness: The part-time work puzzle. The Economic Journal, 118(526), F77–F99.
Booth, A. L., & Van Ours, J. C. (2009). Hours of work and gender identity: Does part-time work make the family happier? Economica, 76(301), 176–196.
Bouchet-Valat, M. (2014). Changes in educational, social class and social class of origin homogamy in France (1969–2011): Greater openness overall but increased closure of elites. Revue Francaise De Sociologie, 55(3), 459–505.
Bright, J. E., Pryor, R. G., Wilkenfeld, S., & Earl, J. (2005). The role of social context and serendipitous events in career decision making. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 5(1), 19–36.
Brockmann, H. (2010). Why are middle-aged people so depressed? Evidence from West-Germany. Social Indicators Research, 97(1), 23–42.
Brockmann, H. (2012). Frauen und Mütter im Deutschen Bundestag. Eine explorative Längsschnittstudie. Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen, 43(4), 727–738.
Budig, M. J., & England, P. (2001). The wage penalty for motherhood. American Sociological Review, 66(2), 204–225.
Busch, A., & Holst, E. (2011). Gender-specific occupational segregation, glass ceiling effects, and earnings in managerial positions: Results of a fixed effects model. SOEPpapers, No. 357, pp. 1–26.
Ceci, S. J., Ginther, D. K., Kahn, S., & Williams, W. M. (2014). Women in academic science—A changing landscape. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 15(3), 75–141.
Cha, Y. (2010). Reinforcing separate spheres the effect of spousal overwork on men’s and women’s employment in dual-earner households. American Sociological Review, 75(2), 303–329.
Cha, Y. (2013). Overwork and the persistence of gender segregation in occupations. Gender & Society, 27(2), 158–184.
Clark, A. E. (2007). Born to be mild? Cohort effects don’t (fully) explain why well-being is u-shaped in age. IZA discussion paper 3170.
Clark, A. E., Frijters, P., & Shields, M. A. (2008). Relative income, happiness, and utility: An explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and other puzzles. Journal of Economic Literature, 46(1), 95–144.
Clark, A. E., & Oswald, A. J. (2006). The curved relationship between subjective well-being and age. PSE working papers 2006-29.
Commission, E. (2013a). Progress on equality between women and men in 2012. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
Commission, E. (2013b). She figures 2012: Gender in research and innovation; statistics and indicators. Brussels: Publications Office of the European Communities.
Cotter, D. A., England, P., & Hermsen, J. (2010). Moms and jobs: Trends in mothers’ employment and which mothers stay home. In B. J. Risman (Ed.), Families as they really are (pp. 416–424). New York: W. W. Norton.
Croson, R., & Gneezy, U. (2009). Gender differences in preferences. Journal of Economic Literature, 47(2), 448–474.
Davidson, M. J., & Cooper, C. L. (1984). Occupational stress in female managers: A comparative study. Journal of Management Studies, 21(2), 185–205.
Delle Fave, A., Brdar, I., Freire, T., Vella-Brodrick, D., & Wissing, M. P. (2011). The eudaimonic and hedonic components of happiness: Qualitative and quantitative findings. Social Indicators Research, 100(2), 185–207.
Dholakia, R. R. (1999). Going shopping: Key determinants of shopping behaviors and motivations. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 27(4), 154–165.
Di Tella, R., Haisken-De New, J., & MacCulloch, R. (2010). Happiness adaptation to income and to status in an individual panel. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 76(3), 834–852.
Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55(1), 34–43.
Diener, E., Gohm, C. L., Suh, E., & Oishi, S. (2000). Similarity of the relations between marital status and subjective well-being across cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 31(4), 419–436.
Diener, E., Lucas, R. E., & Oishi, S. (2009). Subjective well-being. The science of happiness and life satisfaction. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 63–73). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Smith, H., & Shao, L. (1995). National differences in reported subjective well-being: Why do they occur? Social Indicators Research, 34(1), 7–32.
Diener, E., Tay, L., & Oishi, S. (2013). Rising income and the subjective well-being of nations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(2), 267–276.
Dye, J. L. (2008). Fertility of American women: 2006. Current population reports, US Census Bureau (P20), 558.
Easterlin, R. A. (1995). Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all? Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 27(1), 35–47.
Easterlin, R. A. (2001). Income and happiness: Towards a unified theory. The Economic Journal, 111(473), 465–484.
Easterlin, R. A. (2006). Life cycle happiness and its sources: Intersections of psychology, economics, and demography. Journal of Economic Psychology, 27(4), 463–482.
Easterlin, R. A., Angelescu McVey, L., Switek, M., Sawangfa, O., & Smith Zweig, J. (2010). The happiness-income paradox revised. PNAS, 107(52), 22463–22468.
Ehrenreich, B., & Hochschild, A. R. (2002). Global woman: Nannies, maids, and sex workers in the new economy. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
England, P. (2005). Gender inequality in labor markets: The role of motherhood and segregation. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 12(2), 264–288.
Epstein, E., & Guttman, R. (1984). Mate selection in man: Evidence, theory, and outcome. Social Biology, 31(3–4), 243–278.
Fernandez, C., & Sevilla-Sanz, A. (2010). Social norms and household time allocation. Feminist Economics, 16(4), 137–184.
Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A., & Ramox, X. (2015). Inequality and happiness. Journal of Economic Surveys, 28(5), 1016–1027.
Fisher, K., & Robinson, J. (2011). Daily life in 23 countries. Social Indicators Research, 101(2), 295–304.
Fortin, N. M. (2005). Gender role attitudes and the labour-market outcomes of women across OECD countries. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 21(3), 416–438.
Fowler, J. H., & Christakis, N. A. (2008). The dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: Longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study. British Medical Journal, 337, 2338–2347.
Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2002). What can economists learn from happiness research? Journal of Economic Literature, 40(2), 402–435.
Giménez-Nadal, J. I., Marcén, M., & Ortega, R. (2010). How do children affect parents’ allocation of time? Applied Economics Letters, 17(17), 1715–1719.
Gimenez-Nadal, J. I., Molina, J. A., & Sevilla-Sanz, A. (2012). Social norms, partnerships and children. Review of Economics of the Household, 10(2), 215–236.
Goodin, R. E., Rice, J. M., Parbo, A., & Eriksson, L. (2008). Discretionary time: A new measure of freedom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Griskevicius, V., & Kenrick, D. T. (2013). Fundamental motives: How evolutionary needs influence consumer behavior. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 23(3), 372–386.
Hakim, C. (2000). Work-lifestyle choices in the 21st century: Preference theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hakim, C. (2005). Sex differences in work-life balance goals. In D. Houston (Ed.), Work-life balance in the 21st century (pp. 55–79). London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hall, S. S., & MacDermid, S. M. (2009). A typology of dual earner marriages based on work and family arrangements. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 30(3), 215–225.
Haller, M., & Hadler, M. (2006). How social relations and structures can produce happiness and unhappiness: An international comparative analysis. Social Indicators Research, 75(2), 169–216.
Haybron, D. M. (2003). What do we want from a theory of happiness? Metaphilosophy, 34(3), 305–329.
Heilman, M. E., Wallen, A. S., Fuchs, D., & Tamkins, M. M. (2004). Penalties for success: Reactions to women who succeed at male gender-typed tasks. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(3), 416–427.
Helliwell, J. F., & Putnam, R. D. (2004). The social context of well-being. Philosophical Transactions Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences, 359, 1435–1446.
Hewlett, S. A., & Luce, C. B. (2005). Off-ramps and on-ramps: Keeping talented women on the road to success. Harvard Business Review, 83(3), 43–54.
Hicks, J. R. (1946). Value and capital (2nd ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Higgins, M. C. (2001). Changing careers: The effects of social context. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 22(6), 595–618.
Higgins, C., Duxbury, L., & Johnson, K. L. (2000). Part-time work for women: Does it really help balance work and family? Human Resource Management, 39(1), 17–32.
Hipp, L., & Stuth, S. (2013). Being a part-time manager? An empirical analysis of the use of part-time work among managers in Europe. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 65(1), 101–128.
Holst, E., Busch-Heizmann, A., & Wieber, A. (2015). Führungskräfte-Monitor 2015. Update 2001–2013. DIW Berlin: Politikberatung Kompakt, 100.
Holst, E., & Schimeta, J. (2011). Twenty-nine women to 906 men: Continuing gender inequality on the boards of Germany’s top companies. Weekly Report, DIW Berlin, 7(4), 2–10.
Hsee, C. K., Hastie, R., & Chen, J. (2008). Hedonomics: Bridging decision research with happiness research. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(3), 224–243.
Kahneman, D., & Deaton, A. (2010). High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(38), 16489–16493.
Kahneman, D., & Krueger, A. B. (2006). Developments in the measurement of subjective well-being. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20(1), 3–24.
Kahneman, D., Krueger, A. B., Schkade, D., Schwarz, N., & Stone, A. A. (2006). Would you be happier if you were richer? A focusing illusion. Science, 312(5782), 1908–1910.
Kalmijn, M. (1998). Intermarriage and homogamy: Causes, patterns, trends. Annual Review of Sociology, 24, 395–421.
Krueger, A. B., Kahneman, D., Fischler, C., Schkade, D., Schwarz, N., & Stone, A. A. (2009). Time use and subjective well-being in France and the US. Social Indicators Research, 93(1), 7–18.
Krueger, A. B., & Mueller, A. I. (2012). Time use, emotional well-being, and unemployment: Evidence from longitudinal data. The American Economic Review, 102(3), 594–599.
Lalive, R., & Stutzer, A. (2010). Approval of equal rights and gender differences in well-being. Journal of Population Economics, 23(3), 933–962.
Linehan, M., & Walsh, J. S. (2000). Work–family conflict and the senior female international manager. British Journal of Management, 11(s1), S49–S58.
Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131(6), 803–855.
Mahaffy, K. A., & Ward, S. K. (2002). The gendering of adolescents’ childbearing and educational plans: Reciprocal effects and the influence of social context. Sex Roles, 46(11–12), 403–417.
Mare, R. D. (1991). Five decades of educational assortative mating. American Sociological Review, 56(1), 15–32.
McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook, J. M. (2001). Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 57(2), 415–444.
Milkie, M. A., Raley, S. B., & Bianchi, S. M. (2009). Taking on the second shift: Time allocations and time pressures of US parents with preschoolers. Social Forces, 88(2), 487–517.
Moen, P., & Yu, Y. (2000). Effective work/life strategies: Working couples, work conditions, gender, and life quality. Social Problems, 47(3), 291–326.
Moore, G. (2004). Mommies and daddies on the fast track in other wealthy nations. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 596(1), 208–213.
Morgan, C., Isaac, J. D., & Sansone, C. (2001). The role of interest in understanding the career choices of female and male college students. Sex Roles, 44(5–6), 295–320.
Mroczek, D. K., & Spiro, A., III. (2005). Change in life satisfaction during adulthood: Findings from the veterans affairs normative aging study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88(1), 189–202.
OECD. (2015a). OECD Employment Outlook 2015. Paris: OECD Publishing.
OECD. (2015b). New OECD data and analysis revealing the wide gap in pension benefits between men and women. Last retrieved on 01/03/2016 from http://www.oecd.org/gender/data/newoecddataandanalysisrevealingthewidegapinpensionbenefitsbetweenmenandwomen.htm.
Pasqua, S., & Mancini, A. L. (2012). Asymmetries and interdependencies in time use between Italian parents. Applied Economics, 44(32), 4153–4171.
Patten, E., & Parker, K. (2012). A gender reversal on career aspirations. Young, 58(59), 56–63.
Pinquart, M., & Sörensen, S. (2000). Influences of socioeconomic status, social network, and competence on subjective well-being in later life: A meta-analysis. Psychology and Aging, 15(2), 187–224.
Rudman, L. A. (1998). Self-promotion as a risk factor for women: The costs and benefits of counterstereotypical impression management. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(3), 629–645.
Sandberg, S. (2013). Lean in: Women, work, and the will to lead. New York: Random House.
Sayer, L. C. (2005). Gender, time and inequality: Trends in women’s and men’s paid work, unpaid work and free time. Social Forces, 84(1), 285–303.
Schoon, I., Hansson, L., & Salmela-Aro, K. (2005). Combining work and family life: Life satisfaction among married and divorced men and women in Estonia, Finland, and the UK. European Psychologist, 10(4), 309–319.
Schwartz, C. R. (2010). Earnings inequality and the changing association between spouses’ earnings. American Journal of Sociology, 115(5), 1524–1557.
Seleen, D. R. (1982). The congruence between actual and desired use of time by older adults: A predictor of life satisfaction. The Gerontologist, 22(1), 95–99.
Sheldon, K. M., Cummins, R., & Kamble, S. (2010). Life balance and well-being: Testing a novel conceptual and measurement approach. Journal of Personality, 78(4), 1093–1134.
Simpson, R. (1998). Presenteeism, power and organizational change: Long hours as a career barrier and the impact on the working lives of women managers. British Journal of Management, 9(s1), 37–50.
Snijders, T. A. B., & Bosker, R. J. (2012). Multilevel analysis: An introduction to basic and applied multilevel analysis (2nd ed.). London, Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Tower, L. E., & Alkadry, M. G. (2008). The social costs of career success for women. Review of Public Personnel Administration, 28(2), 144–165.
Trzcinski, E., & Holst, E. (2011). Why men might ‘have it all’ while women still have to choose between career and family in Germany. SOEPpapers, No. 356.
Veenhoven, R. (1984). Conditions of happiness. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Veenhoven, R. (2002). Why social policy needs subjective indicators. Social Indicators Research, 58(1–3), 33–46.
Veenhoven, R. (2010). How universal is happiness? In E. Diener, J. F. Helliwell, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), International differences in well-being (pp. 328–350). New York: Oxford University Press.
Veenhoven, R. (2013a). The four qualities of life ordering concepts and measures of the good life. In A. Delle Fave (Ed.), The exploration of happiness (pp. 195–226). Berlin: Springer.
Veenhoven, R. (2013b). Notions of the good life. In S. A. David, I. Boniwell, & A. C. Ayers (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of happiness (pp. 161–173). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wagner, G. G., Frick, J. R., & Schupp, J. (2007). The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP)—Scope, evolution and enhancements. SOEPpapers, No. 1.
Wajcman, J. (2013). Managing like a man: Women and men in corporate management. London: Wiley.
World Bank. (2011). World development report 2012: Gender equality and development. World Bank Publications.
Wunder, C., & Heineck, G. (2012). Working time preferences, hours mismatch and well-being of couples: Are there spillovers? SOEPpapers, No. 471.
Yang, Y., & Land, K. C. (2013). Age–period–cohort analysis: New models, methods, and empirical applications. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Groups.
About this article
Cite this article
Brockmann, H., Koch, A., Diederich, A. et al. Why Managerial Women are Less Happy Than Managerial Men. J Happiness Stud 19, 755–779 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-016-9832-z
- Life satisfaction
- Gender differences
- Gender studies
- Career preferences