Journal Article

The Gender Paradox in Work Satisfaction and the Protestant Clergy

Elaine M. McDuff

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 62, issue 1, pages 1-21
Published in print January 2001 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2001 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
The Gender Paradox in Work Satisfaction and the Protestant Clergy

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Female clergy are more likely than male clergy to serve small, rural churches in declining communities, yet they express a high level of satisfaction with their work, often higher than that of male clergy. Why are female clergy relatively happy with their jobs in spite of poor work conditions? Studies of other occupations have consistently found that while women's work conditions and rewards are inferior to those of men in comparable positions (a situation which should reduce satisfaction), women report being as satisfied or more satisfied with their work (Fry and Greenfield 1980; Mannheim 1983; Phelan and Phelan 1983; Moore 1985; Bokemeier and Lacy 1986; Hodson 1989; Phelan 1994). This discrepancy is called the “gender paradox” in work satisfaction.

The purpose of this study is to address female clergy's reports of higher satisfaction, using the five main explanations of the paradox which have been identified and tested (Phelan 1994; Mueller and Wallace 1996); the emphasis is on arguments that involve justice perceptions. Beyond the effects of justice perceptions on satisfaction, gender difference in justice perceptions are of interest in and of themselves, since sources of gender inequality are not likely to be corrected as long as men and women evaluate those inequalities as just and fair (Marx [1848]1964; Smelser 1962). A comprehensive model of sources of satisfaction will be used as, previous studies (Mueller and Wallace 1996) have found that using a properly specified model may eliminate much of the paradox for job satisfaction. The data come from a 1996 national survey of pastors in two Protestant denominations, and show that a gender paradox does exist for clergy job satisfaction. While justice perceptions play a highly significant role in explaining job satisfaction, they fail to eliminate the gender paradox. A finding which contradicts previous studies is evidence of differences in job values for male and female clergy. It is suggested that future studies include variables that assess the importance of gender-specific job values in producing job satisfaction.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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