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How does gender impact perceptions of the employee experience?

How Does Gender Impact Perceptions of the Employee Experience?

Celebrated annually on March 8, International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global holiday intended to raise the visibility of issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence against women. Arising out of the universal female suffrage and labor movements of the early 20th century, the timing of IWD is significant — it references the date in 1917 when Vladimir Lenin, newly-installed leader of the Soviet Union, made it a national holiday in recognition of the millions of women who had supported the communist revolution that brought him to power. Other socialist and communist nations began celebrating IWD shortly thereafter, and much of the rest of the world would follow suit after the United Nations officially recognized it as a holiday in 1977. 

In the twenty-first century, IWD has received considerable support and sponsorship from private-sector organizations. These organizations have promoted IWD to raise public awareness of the holiday as well as to highlight internal diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) challenges and opportunities. For such organizations, “listening to women” is more than just a slogan or hashtag — but only a mature employee listening strategy can effectively gather and then action the data-driven insights from all these underrepresented voices.

The Perceptyx Benchmark Database references perceptions gathered from millions of employees who work for organizations of all sizes from every industry around the world. It has long been known that there are gender differences in perceptions of various organizations for which men and women work. With IWD as our backdrop, we wanted to present the results of our own analysis, in which we segmented organizations based on whether a majority of the organization’s employees are women or men. We further segmented results by professional level, which yielded some interesting results.

This analysis remains a work in progress. For example, we don’t yet have the data to adequately describe the number of female managers as opposed to male managers, or the composition of specific executive and leadership teams. While this analysis admittedly has limitations, it also has some evocative lessons to consider

Adequate Training

When we asked individual contributors to rate the item “I am satisfied with the training I receive for my current job,” the difference in male and female-majority organizations was obvious. Men are roughly equally likely to report their training was adequate regardless of the proportion of women with whom they work. 

For women, the story differs. In male-majority organizations, women are 11% less likely to agree that the training they received is adequate for the job they were asked to do.

Table showing differences in sentiments for male and female employees by male-majority or female-majority organizations

Why is this the case? Notice that neither men or women indicated favorable ratings of 100% with reference to their training adequacy. This means the training mode and material quality is likely never sufficient, regardless of gender. 

However, training appears to be less effective for women in male-majority organizations. Perhaps the nature of the work in those organizations is somehow more closely aligned to male-coded abilities, though this is debatable. A likelier possibility is that men and women generally prefer different learning styles — and because training is typically conducted by organizational leaders, the design of this content in male-majority organizations is not sufficiently gender-inclusive. 

Acting on Employee Feedback

Table showing differences in sentiments for male and female managers by male-majority or female-majority organizations

In response to the item “I believe feedback from this survey will be used to make improvements,” managers as a whole in female-majority organizations have a more favorable perception on the likelihood that employee feedback will be used to improve their organizations. Male managers in male-majority organizations have the least favorable perceptions regarding this item.

These results hold for executives as well. Executives in female-majority organizations have a more favorable perception on the likelihood that employee feedback will be used to improve their organizations. Male executives in male-majority organizations have significantly less faith than their male counterparts do in female-majority organizations.

Although there are many implications of this finding, the most important one appears to be that management in female-majority organizations generally holds feedback in higher esteem than management in male-majority organizations.

Managing Workplace Stress

When presented with the item “The stress levels at work are manageable,” women generally report less favorable perceptions than men, whether individual contributors, managers, or executives. However, in female-majority organizations, the perception of stress on both men and women appears to be less favorable than those who work for majority male organizations. For female executives, the decline in perceptions is nearly double that observed among their male counterparts. 

Table showing differences in sentiments for male and female executives by male-majority or female-majority organizations

The nature of the organizations being surveyed offers one possible explanation. Healthcare organizations make up a large part of the female-majority organizations included in the sample. Over the past several years, Perceptyx research has found that these are stressful environments, facing unique challenges from pandemic-exacerbated issues like burnout that can negatively impact employee engagement

However, even if we limit our discussion to healthcare organizations, there is still a question as to why women executives express less favorable perceptions regarding stress than their male counterparts. For starters, they could be in charge of more stressful lines of business. On top of that, these women are almost certainly working directly and cross-functionally with a higher number of men than women in leadership positions, which may also contribute to increased stress levels. A finding like this highlights the importance of integrating DEI training into all relevant leadership training, in order to emphasize how different communication and management styles might work best with different sets of employees. 

Table showing differences in sentiments for male and female employees by male-majority or female-majority organizationsTable showing differences in sentiments for male and female managers by male-majority or female-majority organizations

In response to the item “At the company, diversity is valued,” both individual contributors and managers in male-majority organizations are less likely than their counterparts at female-majority organizations to believe that diversity is valued. 

On the one hand, these are heartening findings. Great majorities of the people we survey report that diversity is valued in their organizations. On the other hand, women who are managers and individual contributors are roughly 10% less likely to think so in male-majority organizations than their female counterparts in female-majority organizations. By contrast, men are just 4% and 1% less likely, respectively. 

Once again, there are interesting implications that accompany this finding. It appears that diverse organizations — in this case, female-majority organizations — place greater organizational emphasis on valuing diversity, which research has found to be a competitive advantage that can attract new talent, create a better employee experience, and help the organization articulate a compelling vision for its future. There is also a gap that exists between female and male employees at male-majority organizations in this respect, suggesting that more training and outreach are needed in order to close the gap. 

International Women’s Day Is a Reminder That DEIB Performance Drives Future Success

Perceptyx’s research has shown that DEIB is important to organizations for a multitude of reasons, but how can your organization start its DEIB journey? International Women’s Day serves as a reminder that a compelling listening and action strategy can be the difference between reversing a DEIB deficit or letting DEIB issues overwhelm the company culture. 

Perceptyx can help your organization develop and track the right DEIB metrics to drive continuous improvements over time. Schedule a meeting with a member of our team today to learn more.

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