“She needs your respect, not your comfort. Needs your support, not your sweet words.
Girls with dreams become women with vision. All she needs is the freedom to create her own world.”
~ Bithika Halder
Let’s be honest! Talking about gender at a workspace is more or less a taboo. Every company likes to brand itself as “gender neutral” and avoid being part of anything remotely “controversial”. But you know what? A great writer, Haruki Murakami once said, “Closing your eyes isn’t going to change anything. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won’t make time stand still.” You might be running an extra hip company with sleep pods and in-house spas, but if you are not taking gender into your engagement plan, especially while designing a recognition program, then your vision of an ideal company will fail. Miserably!
According to BEG Engaging for Result (EFR) survey 2005-2015, organizations with the highest level of engagement scores don’t have a gender gap, compared to companies with lower overall engagement with a notable gender gap. What is the link between employee engagement and the gender gap? More importantly, what role do rewards and recognition have to play in this? Let’s try to find answers together as the article proceeds.
Recognition: Men Vs. Women
From washrooms, transport to media, men and women have everything tailored around their gender. This gets carried to the workplace. Even if you l don’t believe in the neurological differences between men and women, you can’t deny the fact that as children, girls and boys are taught to socialize according to their gender. This socialization gets carried forward into the workplace, where men and women seem to value different aspects of the workplace experience.
According to P&MM Workplace Recognition Audit, organisations seem to divide recognition schemes into three levels.
- 30% of companies give non-monetary (thank-you) kind of recognition
- 58% of companies roll out a low-level monetary award
- 12% of them roll out a high-level monetary award.
An Employee Recognition Survey done by the American Psychological Association found out that while recognition is equally important for both men and women, men seem to be more likely to report being satisfied with employer’s recognition practices, as compared to their women counterparts. Men show higher levels of motivation and feeling valued. Why is that so?
It is because men and women both receive this kind of recognition, however, when it comes to financial incentives (i.e monetary gains), 75% of the rewards handed out to men have a financial value, compared to 64% of those given to women.
Corporate Psychologist rationalizes this sentiment as, “men tend to be most invested in their pay and benefits, advancement and professional success, and authority and overall status. There’s no doubt that women also value pay and benefits, but research suggests that they place an even higher value on other aspects of the workplace experience. These include building professional relationships and gaining friends at work, receiving recognition and respect from colleagues, and enjoying excellent communication and collaboration with coworkers.”
If we go back to the age-old debate of economic man and emotional woman, then you might find some truth in the above-mentioned study. However, there are cognitive-behavioural psychology studies point out that, “gender—the association of a stimulus with either masculinity or femininity—is another fundamental cognitive schema. We process things more easily and quickly if they fit our mental gender constructs, and have to work more if they do not.” You can call it mental laziness. This mental laziness seeps into our office space and makes us believe that ‘men like this and women like that.’
The corporate world is changing dynamically, and so are people working in it. If we continue to carry our obsolete thoughts on gender and workplace, we will end up losing the race of development.
How to proceed further?
If you are willing to change the system and making your R&R more just and fair, you need to start with slowly changing your office culture. And you as the part of the management need to be the center of this change. Here, are the following things you can start with:
Make women recognize their own contribution: Recognition from others will only come when we as people recognize our own success and contribution. Many women at work still believe that highlighting achievements at work can be seen as “bragging”. In fact, there are so many articles that show that when women talk about their accomplishments, they receive negative comments, backlash and are termed as “show off”. Whereas, when men do it, they are celebrated. It’s time to break off from this toxic thinking. Start nudging your women employees to celebrate themselves. Ask them to post more about their work and accomplishment at office community platforms like (email, slack, WhatsApp group, etc). Once, they get the ball rolling, it becomes your job to endorse and amplify this celebration.
Envision woman leaders: Keep your target big. Your target should be more than gender equality. It should be empowering women to become woman leaders. You need to provide them with the opportunity to align themselves with corporate leaders or coaches, who can help them develop more professionally.
Mission fairness: Remember, when we previously talked about studies that say male employees tend to be more happy with extrinsic/ monetary rewards while females like intrinsic/ non-monetary returns. Yes! let’s not stick with those studies. We must practice fairness in distributing rewards and recognizing our male and female employees. Let both enjoy the experience of receiving extrinsic and intrinsic rewards.
Make award names more gender inclusive: What’s in the name? Well! It’s everything. When you keep award categories and names based on masculine attributes like – Superman, Salesman of the month, etc.
- You de-value employees (both male and females) who have more feminine attributes like – emotional, warm, gentle, kindness.
- You reinforce the gender gap as awards that support masculine attributes, prompts the manager to choose men (remember gender schemas) for the receivers of the award.
Respect and courtesy: Lastly, it is very important that you make your executive level managers and supervisors understand the value of day-to-day recognition and are trained appropriately to express genuine respect for the work and effort of women employees, as well as men.
We understand that gender is and always will be (if you don’t do anything) the proverbial elephants in the room, especially, when it comes to recognition programs. But it doesn’t have to be. You need to build a recognition system that focuses on improving the work culture for both men and women and not just incentivise them. The reward system should represent what you are, what your company stands for, which means asking yourself the bitter question like – is it socially (in this case gender) inclusive?
About the Author: Poonam Das is a Content Writer at Xoxoday ( a Saas commerce company that helps build an engaged and happy workforce). She specializes in curating a strong brand image through storytelling, narrative and experience-driven content writing. With a background in Women Studies and the soul of an artist, she brings in an interesting mix of research, creativity, and a very peculiar social perspective.