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Key Insights & Advice from Our Study of Women at Work

Key Insights & Advice from Our Study of Women at Work

Men aren’t necessarily failing women at work – company culture is.

Last week we released our report about Women in the Workplace. What we found during our research is that gender does play a role in one's workplace experience.

Unfortunately, women's workplace experience continues to lag behind that of men’s. To understand why, and how we can rewrite this narrative, we need to look at the data.

Men are twice as likely to perceive the workplace as fair and equal

When it comes to fair treatment, our data revealed that men were almost twice as likely to believe people are treated fairly regardless of gender compared to women.

Even at Best Workplaces for Women™, there are fewer women than men who believe that people are paid fairly for the work they do.

Women, less often than men, believe management “avoid playing favorites” and give promotions “to those who best deserve them.”

Women also reported they have fewer opportunities for special recognition compared to what men reported.

How are you currently measuring your employees’ performance for promotions?  Because of ingrained cultural stereotypes, men and women doing the same things are often perceived and evaluated differently.

As sociologist and Senior Research Scholar at Stanford University Marianne Cooper points out: “It often plays out in performance evaluations where women are lauded for their accomplishments, but then passed over for promotion because they have 'sharp elbows' or 'are too aggressive.'"

How you can take action

Strategic Advisor at Great Place to Work, Matt Bush recommends that companies should have clear criteria for evaluation so that both men and women are judged for their performance in the same way. 

"When leadership promotes someone, they should be able to point to the criteria they had previously set for their rationale. Promoting for reasons inconsistent with the set criteria is a quick way to lose credibility and trust while fueling perceptions of favoritism."

As for equal opportunities for special recognition, Lorena Martinez, Emprising™ Implementation Consultant at Great Place to Work says, "it's all about breaking free from what we have learned traditional organizations to be." 

Everyone should have exposure to senior leadership, not just those in executive positions.

"From recurring 1:1 skip-level meetings to breakfasts with the CEO, employees should be given opportunities to build a relationship with senior leadership from all departments."

Far more women than men are paid hourly

In our study, we found that 59% of women are paid hourly compared to 33% of men. This could contribute to fewer women than men saying they feel a strong “sense of belonging” at their workplace - another finding from the study.

According to Career Builder, “hourly employees are often able to achieve better work-life balance than salaried employees. They don't typically take work home with them because they won't be paid once they leave their job site.” 

But this work-life balance comes at a cost. When a woman takes on hourly work, it’s not only the healthcare and 401K benefits she misses out on. She misses out on promotions, projects and career-propelling networking opportunities.

That’s because most of the time all of these things require an employee to be working long hours inside the workplace.

Harvard economist Claudia Goldin has studied the gender pay gap for most of her career. She explains the high cost of flexible hourly working arrangements that women tend to accept.

Claudia says women “may work in fact the same number of hours [as men], but they may work hours that are their hours rather than the hours imposed on them by the firm."

The woman will then begin to make … considerably less than the man.  And a lot of what we see … is this choice to go into occupations that have less expensive temporal flexibility, that allow individuals to do their work on their own time.”  

How you can take action

To overcome these disadvantages for hourly workers, employers should actively promote that good work is defined by quality and not hours spent in the office.

Companies can help caregivers in hourly jobs by creating groups of employees with equivalent skills that can take over from each other when they have family needs to attend to.

Employers need also to help make paid paternity leave a social norm to lessen the load for women. Among Best Workplaces, the most generous paid parental leave, American Express provides fathers with 100 paid days.

One employee at American Express shows the special impact when fathers are supported during this major life moment:

"I [took] advantage of the parental leave policy and as a new father, it was incredible to be able to spend five months off with my daughter. I was able to develop a special bond with her that I don't think I could have done otherwise."

Discrimination can’t always explain why women have a different experience at work than men. But insights gleaned from data and employee surveys can.

By surveying your employees and analyzing the data, you can see where the gender and diversity gaps are and start putting the right programs and practices in place. See more suggestions for improving the workplace for women in our 2019 report.