Media Releases

Men benefit more than women from having authority on the job

March 26, 2013

TORONTO, ON — Hav­ing more author­i­ty in the work­place comes with many rewards – includ­ing greater forms of job con­trol and high­er earn­ings. How­ev­er, accord­ing to new research out of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, the ben­e­fits are not even­ly dis­trib­uted for women and men.

Soci­ol­o­gist Scott Schie­man, lead author of the study, found key dif­fer­ences between men and women in both the lev­els and impli­ca­tions of greater job author­i­ty. First, rough­ly 24 per cent of men report man­age­r­i­al author­i­ty com­pared to only 16 per cent of women. More­over, the asso­ci­a­tion between man­age­r­i­al author­i­ty and job auton­o­my is stronger among men com­pared to women. In oth­er words, men who achieved the high­est lev­els of struc­tur­al pow­er– with­in a broad range of dif­fer­ent occupations–are more like­ly to per­ceive their jobs as more autonomous and influ­en­tial. When they shared the same high lev­el of author­i­ty in the work­place, men are more like­ly than women to feel they have deci­sion-mak­ing free­dom and greater influ­ence about what hap­pens on the job.

The study also repli­cates the long-stand­ing pat­tern that, at the same lev­el of man­age­r­i­al author­i­ty, women tend to earn less income than men. By con­trast, the authors did not find any evi­dence that the rewards of job author­i­ty dif­fered for old­er ver­sus younger work­ers.

Schie­man and his col­leagues Markus Schafer and Ph.D. stu­dent Mitch McIvor mea­sured a range of work con­di­tions using data from the Cana­di­an Work, Stress, and Health Study (CAN-WSH), a large nation­al sur­vey of Cana­di­an work­ers. To assess lev­els of job author­i­ty, they asked study par­tic­i­pants: “Do you super­vise or man­age any­one as part of your job?” “Do you influ­ence or set the rate of pay received by oth­ers?” and “Do you have the author­i­ty to hire or fire oth­ers?” Work­ers with both super­vi­so­ry and sanc­tion­ing respon­si­bil­i­ties were clas­si­fied as hav­ing “man­age­r­i­al author­i­ty.”

“Forms of job con­trol – espe­cial­ly job auton­o­my – are high­ly cov­et­ed resources for many work­ers,” says Schie­man. “We know that job resources like author­i­ty and auton­o­my or income tend to bun­dle togeth­er. And yet, our research sug­gests that the bundling of these job rewards con­tin­ue to dif­fer for women and men.” Their analy­ses ruled out the pos­si­bil­i­ty that dif­fer­ences in occu­pa­tion lev­el, job sec­tor, work hours, job stress, and mar­i­tal or parental sta­tus­es might be pro­duc­ing these dif­fer­ences.

Schie­man sees these find­ings as rel­e­vant for the cur­rent debate stirred up by Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead “Our find­ings shed new light on an age-old ques­tion: Who ben­e­fits more from author­i­ty in the work­place? The pat­terns we dis­cov­er sug­gest that even when women ‘lean in’ and attain greater author­i­ty at work, the struc­tur­al fea­tures of pow­er have dif­fer­ent con­se­quences for the sub­jec­tive expe­ri­ence of auton­o­my and influ­ence in ways that favour men. This cor­rob­o­rates Sandberg’s claims about the dif­fer­en­tial dis­tri­b­u­tion of access to, and the rewards of, high­er-sta­tus posi­tions.”

The study, The Rewards of Author­i­ty in the Work­place: Do Gen­der and Age Mat­ter?, is pub­lished in the Spring 2013 issue of the jour­nal Soci­o­log­i­cal Per­spec­tives. (


For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact:

Scott Schie­man
Depart­ment of Soci­ol­o­gy
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Twit­ter: @ScottSchiemanUT

Chris­tine Elias
Fac­ul­ty of Arts & Sci­ence
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Twit­ter: @UTArtSci