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Young Women in Public Service Express Financial Insecurity

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 6, 2024 – A new research brief by MissionSquare Research Institute comparing the sentiment of younger public service employees by gender reveals only 23% of women feel very financially secure as compared to 43% of men. This research comes as state and local governments continue to struggle drawing younger workers into public service careers.

The financial concerns of women extend to perceptions of public sector salaries and benefits, with female respondents rating both lower than male respondents. Only 8% of women consider their salary very competitive, in contrast to 19% of men. Regarding benefits, 15% of women view them as very competitive, while 30% of men hold this sentiment.

The detailed insights are presented in the research brief, “35 and Under in the Public Sector: Comparisons by Gender.” Read the brief.

This brief supplements a recent report, “35 and Under in the Public Sector: Why Younger Workers Enter and Why They Stay (or Don’t).” Read the research.

Gerald Young, MissionSquare Research Institute Senior Research Analyst said, “Understanding these gender-specific financial attitudes is crucial for government leaders aiming to attract the next generation of public service employees. Women in the survey expressed notable differences in financial concerns and perceptions of employer benefits. Jurisdictions that work hard to understand and meet the specific needs of workers under 35 will gain a long-term competitive advantage in workforce development and retention.”

Other key findings include:

  • While health insurance garnered about equal satisfaction by gender (with just over half saying they were extremely or very satisfied), female respondents were less likely to be satisfied with other aspects of their compensation and benefits, with the greatest differences for paid family leave, retirement benefits, and salary.
  • The ability to save and invest for retirement among younger public workers varies significantly by gender. For example, 64% of younger women say they cannot afford to save more, significantly higher than men (46%).
  • Across eight different categories of employee benefits, male respondents were more likely than female respondents to indicate they understood those issues very or somewhat well. This could either reflect a more thorough understanding of those concepts among men, or greater confidence in their understanding of those concepts.
  • Male and female respondents generally agreed on valuing workplace professionalism (60%) and innovation (44%). Beyond that, most aspects of workplace culture were rated as more important by female respondents.
  • Female employees were more likely to have chosen to work in government based on the ability to serve their community, but male employees were more likely to recommend the public sector to family or friends.

This report, based on a nationally representative online survey of 1,004 state and local government employees aged 35 and under conducted by Greenwald Research, explores motivations for working in the public sector, attitudes about finances, views on employer benefits, retirement thoughts, morale, job satisfaction, and retention issues.

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