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Closing the Gender Gap: 15 Ways for Equal Appreciation at Work

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Over the years, we've seen some eye-opening statistics about women in the workplace. We know that women:

  • They earn 82% of what men earn for comparable work.
  • Only 10.4% of Fortune 500 companies are led by CEOs.
  • 27% more likely than men to experience sexual harassment in the workplace.

But new data from IceHrm's employee recognition survey has revealed another harsh reality that many women face. Female employees are not praised and recognized as often as their male colleagues - in some cases, they never receive recognition from those around them.

16% of U.S. families have a female breadwinner, and 29% of male and female spouses earn about the same amount. So how is it that society still fails to show gratitude to the women who give so much of their skills, experience, energy and lives at the service of their employers?

Today we will shed light on the current gender recognition gap and offer advice on how companies can effectively recognize women's contributions and increase the frequency of recognizing women in the workplace.

How big is the current recognition deficit between the genders?

IceHrm surveyed 1,000 full-time employees in the U.S. to determine the current state of employee recognition in the modern workplace. As you can see from the results below, some alarming discrepancies emerged when we asked women and men about their experiences.

How often do women and men receive recognition from managers?

Praise from the highest levels of a company gives employees a sense of pride and can open important professional doors for them. This type of recognition signals that those in charge recognize an employee's work and may even promote them one day. Our data shows large differences in the frequency with which leaders respond to women and men.

  • Daily recognition is reported by 7.6% of men compared to 5.8% of women.
  • Weekly recognition is received by 18.4% of men, but only 9.3% of women.
  • Monthly, 21.5% of men receive recognition compared to 14% of women.
  • More women than men report receiving recognition quarterly and annually less often (18.4% of women and 17.6% of men quarterly and 16.5% of women and 15.7% of men annually).
  • What is striking is that 36% of women never receive recognition from management, compared to 19.4% of men.

How often do women and men receive recognition from their superiors?

Managers are better able to understand the contributions of their direct reports. Our data shows a similar pattern to the executive statistics and paints a worrying picture.

  • 21.2% of men receive daily recognition from their managers, compared to 14.5% of women.
  • 32.2% of men receive weekly recognition from their direct managers, compared to 26% of women.
  • More women than men report receiving recognition less frequently on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. 23.6% of women and 23% of men receive recognition monthly, 12.8% of women and 11.6% of men quarterly, and 9.5% of women and 4.6% of men annually.
  • 13.6% of women say their boss never recognizes their work, compared to 7.4% of men.

How often do women and men receive recognition from their colleagues?

Colleagues understand the daily challenges their colleagues face and can offer sincere praise for hard work. They may also notice when their manager doesn't recognize a team member who regularly goes above and beyond. IceHrm's data shows that peer recognition is less common among women than men.

  • Daily peer recognition was reported by 36.8% of men and 25.6% of women.
  • There is a similar gender gap in weekly peer recognition - 33.3% for men and 30.6% for women.
  • Women report receiving more recognition in the less frequent categories of monthly, quarterly and annual. 16.9% of women and 12.6% of men receive monthly recognition; 7.8% of women and 5.2% of men receive quarterly recognition; 3.7% of women and 1.9% of men receive annual recognition.
  • 15.5% of women never receive recognition from colleagues, compared to 10.3% of men.

How can companies compensate for the recognition gap?

Talented female employees and applicants don't want to work for an employer that doesn't recognize their value. If you have identified a gender recognition problem in your company, this problem will not go away on its own. Try some of the following expert-backed strategies to level the playing field in your business:

1.Recognize that you have a recognition problem

To rebalance the scales of recognition between genders, you must first take an honest look at the current state of appreciation in your company.

Your company's situation may be slightly better than the data we found in our research - or it may be worse. To learn more about your specific recognition culture, you should start with the following questions:

  • How do we currently recognize our employees?
  • Are there any patterns or discrepancies between genders?
  • Are leaders trained and held accountable to give equal credit to men and women?
  • What recognition feedback do we receive from our employees and how can we use it to address gender inequalities?

2.Give women a chance to be recognized

If recognition in your company depends on the quality and quantity of work done, give your female employees the chance to put in the effort and get their work done. This sounds simple, but research shows that women are often slowed down by the company's additional household chores that are outside of their scope.

In the book "The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women's Dead-End Work," Linda Babcock, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University, describes the huge difference between the daily work hours of her and her male colleague George. It is worth noting that "research" was a crucial part of her duties and the most important factor in her performance evaluation. Nevertheless, George was able to dedicate six blocks of time totaling seven hours to this important task. Meanwhile, Linda was so overloaded with additional faculty work that she only had time for a single one-hour research session.

3.Train bias

Let’s face it: most leaders, managers, and team members don’t intentionally overlook women.

It's impossible to expect your organization's ranks to reduce gender bias if your leaders don't lead by example. Employees in higher positions must receive appropriate training so that they understand how their behavior impacts their direct reports and perpetuates the cycle of discrimination.

SMB Guide contributor Conor Hughes provides a list of recommended training elements:

  • Educate your leaders about gender bias and how to recognize the contributions of women and men equally.
  • Training managers to give women frequent and timely feedback, not just at annual reviews.
  • Providing guidelines, tools and templates to enable managers to provide meaningful written and verbal recognition.
  • Develop consistent criteria for performance awards that minimize bias and increase recipient diversity.
  • Teach inclusive language and behavior in daily recognition.
  • Share case studies about successful recognition.
  • Regular refreshment and repetition of these skills through workshops, online modules and coaching.

4.Implement a formal recognition program

Is your recognition approach based on ad hoc thank yous and unstructured team awards throughout the year? IceHrm's Trevor Larson describes the importance of implementing a formal recognition program to support your pursuit of gender parity.

Whether you use a dedicated recognition platform or another approach, structure brings clarity to the conversation.

5.Establish a recognition programs committee

Developing a formal employee recognition policy includes establishing a committee to oversee the implementation of the program. Creating a team that includes employees from all departments and levels of the company brings in a diverse perspective. A committee can also advocate for the recognition of women in the workplace and ensure that they are recognized fairly and regularly.

6.Create specific standards for employee recognition

In your employee recognition policy, you can set criteria for determining employee performance and awarding praise, which leads to a transparent and fair process. Creating specific standards can encourage inclusive practices in your company culture and ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to be rewarded for their contributions.

7.Encourage peer recognition

Recognition from the top down, from managers and executives to their direct reports, should always have its place. However, peer recognition can be a powerful tool for promoting an inclusive corporate culture. The recognition gap is partly due to women not having the opportunity to showcase their achievements to their colleagues and superiors.

8.Recognize the value of contribution, not profit

Companies are obsessed with profits. We set ambitious goals, tick off milestones along the way and celebrate success when we cross the finish line. The problem with that? This approach easily overlooks the countless outstanding contributions that make success possible.

Example: Sales Manager Paul exceeds his goals and breaks records year after year. He is regularly recognized with awards, bonuses and promotions. What you don't see, however, is that his colleague Jenny, a sales enablement specialist, has spent countless hours sifting through data to identify the right leads. Recognizing Jenny's efforts to contribute to Paul's success can go a long way toward promoting gender balance in the workplace.

9.Focus on the “what” and not the “who”

Another way to overcome gender bias is to focus on the specific accomplishments, positive behaviors, or activities completed rather than who provided them. If e.g. For example, if both John and Jane win a new customer for your company this quarter, but only John is praised in a company-wide town hall, then something clearly went wrong.

By setting recognition standards based on the outcome of a service rather than who provided it, you can eliminate potential bias.

10.Introduce mentoring for female employees

Just as talk show host Oprah Winfrey was mentored by memoirist Maya Angelou, the women in your company could benefit from participating in a mentorship program. This is especially true if you work in a male-dominated industry or company where women have to work even harder to get the recognition they deserve.

11.Create an inclusive culture of remote and hybrid work

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more women than men work remotely. In 2022, 41% of women worked from home fully or partially, compared to 28% of men. This is primarily because women need flexible work arrangements to manage their caring responsibilities.

While remote work and hybrid work models are a huge advantage for many employees, they lead to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it comes to recognition. Without a physical presence in the office, women's contributions are more easily overlooked.

To change this, companies should prioritize creating an inclusive remote and hybrid work culture where all employees are equally recognized and valued. This includes regular meetings with remote employees, opportunities for virtual team building and recognition events, and personalizing rewards so they are relevant to distributed team members.

12.Celebrate women in your workplace

Some female employees find it difficult to present themselves in the right light. TechSmith CEO Wendy Hamilton reflects on why women don't always get the recognition they deserve.

Wendy's findings are supported by a gendered academic study of self-expression, in which participants intentionally chose to be invisible despite being aware of the importance of visibility. The women did not want to be perceived negatively by their male managers; they felt inauthentic when using self-expression techniques, and they also chose to stay out of the spotlight to achieve a better work-life balance.

However, the high-performing women in your company can benefit from others profiling and showcasing them using various internal and external methods. Daniel Wolken, Talent Acquisition Specialist at DailyRemote, believes this is an essential factor in highlighting the achievements of decision makers.

13.Consider different personality types in your recognition program

According to the Myers-Briggs system, every employee in your company has one of 16 personality types. The Myers-Briggs system includes the classification pairs introverted or extroverted, feeling or intuitive, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving. There is no “right” personality type because everyone has their own strengths. However, if you understand that everyone thinks differently and processes information differently, you can develop a comprehensive recognition program.

We spoke with John Hackston of Myers-Briggs Company, who compared IceHrm's recent gender recognition data with similar data from his company. He explained why a combination of old-fashioned sexism and different personality types can lead to women being unrecognized and ultimately excluded from boardrooms.

14.Make gender equality a year-round event

Events like International Women's Day and Women's History Month are important dates on your calendar. They offer your DEI teams the opportunity to spotlight female employees and discuss gender equality. The risk, however, is that once the month or day is over, these initiatives are quickly forgotten until next year. Instead of making the recognition and inclusion of women a one-time event, use it as an opportunity to raise awareness and spark ongoing conversations about gender inequality.

15.Monitor the effectiveness of your recognition program

To prevent women's achievements from being under-recognized, it is important to regularly review and monitor your recognition program for gender-specific differences. Data is your friend here. Use analytics from the following sources to identify discrepancies in employee recognition:

  • Employee surveys
  • Residence and exit interviews
  • 1:1 conversations
  • Focus groups
  • Employee award nominations and winners
  • Recipients of points-based rewards

If your data indicates a gender discrepancy, you should adjust your program and procedures to address it.

Closing the gender recognition gap is essential for fostering an inclusive workplace. Companies must implement strategies to ensure equal appreciation for women's contributions. IceHrm can help track progress and promote fairness in recognition practices.

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