Walt Disney Co.
announced this week that it’s investing $50 million in an education program for its employees that will cover tuition costs for hourly employees.
The company didn’t provide many details, but chairman and chief executive officer Robert Iger said it’s designed to make higher education more accessible.
“I have always believed that education is the key to opportunity,” he said in a statement.
If employees use the program for training related to their jobs, women might get more out of it than men do, research shows.
Job training creates different expectations among men than women, according to a 2017 report from the World Bank, the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, the Universidad Nacional de La Plata in Argentina and the Inter-American Development Bank, a Washington, D.C.-based company that finances development in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The researchers studied young people who participated in “Programa Juventud y Empleo” (“Youth and Employment Program”) between 2002 and 2013. During that time, more than 72,500 people went through the program, 57% women and 43% men, the report — circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private and nonpartisan research organization — found.
The participants went through two types of programs: (a) either vocational training (usually related to a specific, non-academic skill) combined with soft-skills training (which the researchers said included expertise in areas such as leadership, organization, communication and conflict resolution) and an internship and (b) just soft skills training and an internship with no vocational training. Then, the researchers evaluated how they were doing after 12 months and after 36 months.
They found “striking gender differences” in how the training affected the participants in the short term. Both training programs helped women. After completing them, women saw higher employment rates in higher-paying jobs, with higher job satisfaction within the 12 months.
Men didn’t appear to benefit from either program, however. Men in the programs without the vocational training component saw no effect from the soft skills-only training. But those who participated in the vocational program actually saw negative effects.
The researchers say the men did not improve their skills, but the training gave them perhaps unrealistically higher expectations for higher wages, which never materialized. Before the 36-month check-in period, the men eventually lowered their expectations and took “whatever jobs they could get,” the researchers found. More men reported they were actively looking for new jobs, they had lower self-esteem, and they expected lower salaries.
On the other hand, women still had higher positive expectations about their future opportunities and success after three years than men did, higher job satisfaction, higher self-esteem and higher expectations for salaries. “While the program positively impacted women’s lives, men were ultimately disappointed and discouraged, leading to the deterioration in the quality of their lives,” the researchers wrote.
Many women are already aware there is a chance they are at a disadvantage, mostly due to the gender wage gap, said Sabrina Pasztor, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. As a result, they may be more open to vocational and soft-skills training, she said. Men have not had to face this kind of gender discrimination and may have been conditioned to expect or even be entitled to a reward at the end of their training, she said.
In some ways, men also tend to have higher expectations for their work lives and economic security, said Ariane Hegewisch, the program director for employment and earnings at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. They are more likely to negotiate when an employer doesn’t explicitly tell employees that wages are negotiable, according to a study from the University of Chicago. And women? “We know women often may feel, ‘How much of a right do I have to be pissed off?’” she said.
There may have been technical reasons why the results differed for men and women. Many men and women participants in the program took classes in fields that tend to be female-dominated, she pointed out, and may not be professions men are willing to do as frequently. The top programs they participated in during 2009 were sales, hotels and restaurants, professional services, beauty, health and commerce. (Studies have shown that as women take over a traditionally male-dominated field, the pay in that field drops.)
Previous studies have also shown women to be as satisfied, or even more satisfied than men in their work, with one notable exception: how much they are paid. Women were as satisfied or even more satisfied than men regarding the recognition they receive at work for their accomplishments, amount of work required of them, flexibility of their hours, job stress, retirement plans, job security and vacation time, a 2013 survey of about 2,000 people from the polling firm Gallup in 2013 showed.
But women were less satisfied than men with their chances for promotion and the amount of money they earned. Women in the U.S. made 79.6% of what men did in 2015, with black and Hispanic women earning less than white women.