Men and Women Are Equally Engaged at Work. But Is There More to the Story?

Callie RushtonEmployee Engagement, NewsLeave a Comment

Men and women have different workplace experiences but roughly the same levels of engagement. What does this mean for your organization?

It’s an unfortunate but well-documented fact that many gender disparities persist in today’s world of work. There’s the pay gap of course, wherein women make just 82 percent of what men earn. There is also inequality when it comes to hiring and promotion, particularly in industries like tech and finance.

But there is one area where there is little difference between men and women: engagement.

Engagement is defined as the commitment and enthusiasm someone has for their work and their willingness to go above and beyond in their role. It is something that many organizations are working to maximize, as studies have shown that engaged employees are happier, more productive, and more responsive to customer needs. Organizations with an engaged workforce also see reduced turnover, lower absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents.

In short, engagement is very good for your bottom line.

So if engagement is virtually the same between men and women, doesn’t that suggest that your organization is doing a good job of supporting everyone equally? Not necessarily. While engagement levels may be equal, there are certainly differences in the way men and women experience the workplace.

For instance, women generally feel more valued than men do. Women also tend to have higher trust in their teams. Men, on the other hand, tend to perceive that communication from senior leaders is more consistent and inspiring. They also generally feel more listened to than women. And bear in mind that these disparities appear in the aggregate of all of our clients—they may be even more pronounced depending on the organization or industry.

Even if we acknowledge that there are differences in experience, we may wonder if they really matter. After all, if engagement is ultimately the same, maybe these disparities aren’t all that important, right? While it is tempting to believe this, we’d caution against it. If you just assume everything is fine—and fail to dive deeper into these types of disparities—certain items will likely go ignored. And while these may not be directly impacting engagement at the moment, they may eventually lead to disengagement and turnover if left unaddressed.

With this in mind, it’s important that leaders take steps to close these gaps. Doing so may require conversations and action at multiple levels of the organization. For example, how can senior leaders ensure that communications are reaching all areas of the organization in a meaningful way? Are managers equipped with a variety of strategies for listening and soliciting input? Do employees have the right skills and resources to get information, exert influence in productive ways, and build trust within diverse teams?

In asking these questions, it’s good to remember that the answer may require different approaches for different groups. For instance, communication from senior leaders might already be sufficient for inspiring the male employees, but perhaps a different or supplemental strategy is needed to effectively motivate women in the workplace. Maybe mangers should determine why it is that men are more reluctant to trust their team members and come up with a team-building activity that would specifically engage them. Perhaps there’s a need to ask women in particular what would make them feel more heard, in order to bring them up to par with how men feel.

The workplace experience will never be exactly the same for everyone, no matter what your organization does. But asking questions and responding with creative, thoughtful strategies can be a powerful means of demonstrating—through action, not just words—that you care about supporting the needs of all your people, regardless of their gender identification. In this way, you can help ensure that disparities don’t fester and negatively impact engagement in the long-run.