Employee Engagement: Why Is Gender (Still) A Factor?

Written by Elyssa Thome

Fact: Men are more likely to be engaged in the workplace than women.

Does that surprise you? If so, you may want to take a closer look at recent research by Human Capital Institute and Acheivers. The survey was designed to find out more about the factors that correspond with high employee engagement. And the results indicate that today’s most engaged employees are males, age 50 or older, who hold senior-level positions, and have been with an organization for at least 15 years.

Implications For Women

What explains these results? There is no single answer that applies to all companies. Also, employee engagement varies from person to person, for multiple reasons. However, for any of us to engage in our work, we must feel a sense of control over the workload, and believe that our efforts have a direct impact on the company mission.

Not surprisingly, the higher we climb within the workforce, the more likely we’ll experience those key factors of control and meaningful contribution. And employees who have been in the workforce longer and have risen in the ranks to executive levels tend to be males who are 50 or older. The truth is, despite huge progress in gender equality among college graduation rates and even in the level of entry-level jobs, women are still absent from top leadership at most companies.

What To Do?

I work with powerful, fierce, dedicated women every day. They may not be top executives (yet), but they are valuable contributors, and they have tremendous potential. Imagine the impact on business performance if employees like these were more invested in making their company better.

As the U.S. Census Bureau points out, there’s a long way to go before we reach a truly equitable workplace. But we won’t arrive at that goal unless we continue to work toward progress. For example, we can rethink business practices that may erode engagement among women employees. Here are three options:

1) Support Flexible Schedules

While it may not elevate more women to the corner office, schedule flexibility does offer employees of both genders a sense of control that translates to higher engagement. Building in options to work from home or to arrange flexible hours provides a level of personal freedom and responsibility that leads to increased productivity and deeper investment in the company.

2) Promote From Within, When Possible

Don’t overlook existing talent when filling open positions. There is nothing quite as demoralizing as having an unproven manager hired over you, when you’re confident that you can be effective in that role. Investing in the development of current employees and giving them the opportunity to demonstrate return on that investment allows for individual and company growth.

3) Advocate For One Another

More opportunities for female advancement are unlikely to arise unless women proactively champion the concept. My friends and colleagues point to female mentors that provided support, confidence and guidance that led them to high-potential roles. As Sheryl Sandberg points out in her provocative book, Lean In, women have a harder time talking about their own successes, but easily promote the work of others. Use that trait for a greater good. Open the door for employees to recognize one another, and listen carefully.

Addressing women in the workplace more effectively can have a huge pay-off. You’ll likely stop losing top female talent to issues you were overlooking. Also, with a more diverse workforce, your company can expect to be more effective at driving creativity and innovation. Ensure that your organization isn’t unintentionally limiting voices. It all starts with an environment where everyone believes there’s an equal opportunity to contribute.

For more information on what makes an engaged employee, download the full report here.

ElyssaThome-blog(About the Author: Elyssa Thome is a copywriter at Achievers. She has developed expertise in numerous topics, and currently focuses on the human resource space — specifically how to create Employee Success. She has worked with and for powerful, talented, inspiring women, and she hopes to be one herself someday.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

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