The world routinely laments the way women are being held back through gender-specific barriers, but trust Gallup to tell us how women can hold sway over the competition. A recent study by Gallup says employees are more engaged at work when they have a female boss at work. The difference is remarkable at 6% percentage points higher – definitely a number that cannot be sneezed at, especially when employers want the kind of positive results that employee engagement offers. Though Gallup never asked me personally, these results come as no surprise to me because I have a female boss myself, and definitely feel blessed by that fact.
When we consider the academic progress of women, we find that they do not lag behind men. The same cannot be said of their progress through the workplace, as the men overtake them at every single stage of their careers – with very few women reaching the top. A study by Harvard Business Review talks about the hurdles women face on their progress up the career ladder. While both men and women have faced a manager who drove them to quit, the number of women at 25% outpaces the number of men who shared the same fate at 16%. The same study shows that 37% of men were happy with the advancement of their careers, while only 3% of women were found to be happy. This comes as no surprise when the same study also shows that women invariably started at lower salaries than men, though equally skilled.
Usually women who experience career success do so mainly because they are self-motivated and ambitious, but seek out mentors and supportive colleagues to help them to grow in their career and lives. In return, when becoming managers they adopt a managerial style that encourages and recognizes subordinates. On the other hand, men face tremendous pressure and expectations of exceptional achievement from society in general and even from close family members. Typically, “winning” at work is achieved through focus on their own aspirations.
According to the Gallup study, the preference for women managers stemmed from the behaviors they manifest, like:
There are numerous studies measuring engagement, and each uses different definitions and measuring techniques. What they all have in common are deplorable results! A study by the University of Arizona shows that 88% of employees lack “passion for their work”. The most positive study, The 2015 Employee Engagement Trends Report, places overall workforce engagement at 65.9%, but notes that this is the lowest level in eight years. While the results are better when polling Americans who report having a female boss, we find only 14% of top positions are held by women.
In the DCR blog, we have been talking about the subtle negative attitudes women face at work. This could make ambitious women work twice as hard as any man, as they have a point to prove by establishing their worthiness. Despite the challenges faced by women in the workplace, Gallup reports that women individually are more engaged than their male counterparts, and their workers are more engaged than those working under a man’s direction. Despite these results, biases against women in positions of leadership continue. In the Gallup study, one third of all employees prefer to work for a man, 20% would choose a female boss, and nearly half don’t care.
Businesses are aware that positive business outcomes like customer satisfaction, innovation and profitability are made possible by the zeal of engaged employees. Employee engagement also drives retention. It makes sense to have managers who are better at engaging their employees. So, if you happen to be hesitating about promoting women to positions of leadership and responsibility, this may be the time to rethink your position and establish programs to weed out the biases against them. Those of you who have always worked to promote women’s careers may also take this opportunity to do a reality check, by measuring the results.
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