There’s no doubt that companies of all shapes and sizes are trying to find ways to improve employee engagement.
In its simplest form, employee engagement is about the quality of the relationship between an organization and its employees. Certainly, many factors influence how this shakes out and the tech industry is not immune when it comes to challenges of employee engagement. But there’s one added factor that influences all sectors when looking at the big picture of employee engagement: gender.
Perhaps tech or finance pop to mind so easily because despite gender equality strides made in so many other sectors, it still lags behind in these spaces. This means that for a typical female employee in tech, she’s facing an uphill battle from day one. Even if the company has done some work to recruit more women, existing structures aimed at employee engagement are typically built with men in mind since they have made up the bulk of the workforce there.
The fast pace of the tech industry often means long hours, startup-style work ethic, and a willingness to do whatever it takes in the job to push towards success. All other gender norms aside, that doesn’t line up well with anyone who has an interest in work life balance or time off for pregnancy and childcare. The issues of “hustle till it’s done” can just be all the more exacerbated for women, but it’s still a company culture issue that impacts people of all genders.
What Does “Engaged” Look Like in the Female WorkForce?
Perhaps it’s easier to start with the idea of disengaged employees. Most would recognize that these are the team members who look like they are going through the motions of their job. Engaged workers help work towards creating solutions for problems, whereas disengaged workers and their approach to daily work directly pull from those solutions.
A recent study by Boston Consulting Group went into the details of where employee engagement is missing the mark with women. In their overall findings, they determined that companies with high engagement levels experienced more positive outcomes, including that both men and women were highly engaged at each level of the organization.
The research project identified seven core areas that had an impact on female employee engagement: cooperation and good relations with colleagues, work life balance, job attributes, compensation and promotion options, appreciation of their work, and company objectives and aspirations.
It will come as no surprise that much like other aspects of work life, experiences in the workplace vary greatly by gender. In a separate study by InHerSight, there are at least six blind spots in which male workers give the company great marks but their female counterparts do not:
· Access to equal opportunities
· Maternity leave procedures/policies
· Management options for women
· Top leadership has female representation
· Family growth support
One of the most compelling outcomes from that study is that as women advance in their career, their perception of access to equal opportunities gets worse, not better. Likewise, their trust and perception of senior leadership decreases more as women get more of a chance to work closer to this leadership.
It could be the case that as women adavance in the ranks themselves, they get more of a picture of what life is like at work for women who never get those promotion opportunities.
The important thing for companies to keep in mind is that female employee engagement matters, and failing to take this into consideration can have costly impacts. The promotion, training, and leadership opportunities being made available to women is just one step of a longer process. That in and of itself is not enough, and it’s a big reason why there’s such a mismatch with female employee engagement.
Women have to be part of the conversation when it comes to improving engagement, so they can’t just be involved and “in the room.” They have to be driving the conversation and contributing, too.