On average, women in architecture enjoy their job less than their male peers, at nearly all ages. What’s more, for both men and women satisfaction declines steadily for at least the first ten years of practice.
The curves for both men’s and women’s job satisfaction start high, are lower in the middle years, and end high. While the dip is moderate–a total drop of 1 satisfaction point for women and 0.6 for men, out of 10–it is statistically significant.
Why is this? We can imagine high satisfaction in the early years being due to youthful optimism, and high satisfaction in the later years due to the pleasures of mastery. Selection also plays a role, since those who don’t enjoy the work may be more likely to leave the profession before reaching their 50s or 60s. These phases of life are not specific to architecture: a study by Princeton University also finds this this U-shaped pattern for overall life satisfaction in the general population in wealthy English-speaking countries.
The other striking pattern in our data is that men in architecture report liking their jobs more than women of the same age, consistently and statistically significantly. The only exceptions are for employees under 20 or older than 56, who represent a very small proportion of respondents overall. This finding is supported by Equity in Architecture Survey 2014, which found that 41% of male respondents but only 28% of female respondents were satisfied at work. What makes this result so notable is that the same study mentioned above found that women in the United States and similar countries are actually happier than men overall.
Finally, our data also shows a brief bump in satisfaction in the 41-45 age range. This may in part be related to general population-wide trends. It’s also possible that in the highly cyclical industry of architecture economic peaks and dips have enduring impacts on the achievement and satisfaction of workers on a generational basis.