The future is flexible: Women tell us what drives their happiness at work

Women now make up 47% of the American workforce and have increasingly begun filling positions of leadership in spite of a different set of obstacles facing them in their careers. But while they have adapted and contributed to the professional landscape, companies have not always understood or provided what is most important to attract and retain female talent. How happy are America’s women in their workplaces, and what factors are influencing their attitudes?

We surveyed nearly 5,000 women employed in the US about the non-monetary factors in their lives and work to learn about what they value most (outside of their paycheck) and how that varies across the nation. We discovered that the states with the happiest working women were North and South Dakota, Mississippi, Hawaii, and Missouri. Women in Wyoming, West Virginia, Kansas, Montana, and Vermont reported being the least happy in their workplaces.

The ability to comfortably do their work in a way that was flexible with their home lives was found to be the key driver of workplace happiness among women in 31 states, from being able to care for a family member or newborn, to having remote work options available. Although nearly half of US women work outside the home, they still, in many cases, maintain traditional gender roles assuming the majority duties of childcare, domestic responsibilities, and emotional labor of familial life.

In only 3 states did women not prioritize flexibility as a critical factor in their workplace happiness, although the women in these states were less happy than those who considered flexibility to be important. More than half of women (around 60%) said that they had flexibility in when they work within any given week, and approximately 75% said that they had the ability to miss a few days or weeks of work for a family emergency. Women who reported having these freedoms were much happier as a result. 

Relationships with colleagues also played a significant role in women’s workplace happiness, with 55% of women stating that they were friends with coworkers outside of the office and ranking it as the “most important” driver of workplace happiness in 18 states, including West Virginia, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, New York, and Texas.

Political leanings did not correlate to women’s happiness, with both Democratic and Republican-leaning women in both blue and red states reporting a similar level of happiness on average. Neither did a preference for a female boss, with the exception of Connecticut. Most states had no preference for a boss of a specific gender and it played no role in how happy they were at work. Unsurprisingly, working women who believed they took on the burden of household work were less happy than those who believed they had a more equitable share of duties at home.

“Women’s happiness in the Workplace” is the first of our America vs America survey series, addressing key issues of interest among the American population. Using the Pollfish research platform and methodology to reach a massive audience and niche populations at scale, the “Women’s happiness in the Workplace” survey was fielded nationwide to a total of 4,759 women to learn more about key drivers of workplace satisfaction. Raw data was then analyzed, and working with PredictWise, compared against US Census data to ensure representative sample across all states.

Curious about what else the country is thinking? Follow our America vs America survey infographic, or launch your own national survey through our market research platform.