Engagement and the Gender Gap
By Fraser Marlow, VP Research, BlessingWhite
Often I am reminded of how engagement at work can transcend the walls of the organization — it does connect on many levels to broader social issues. In 2012 we surveyed 7,000 people from around the world — this employee engagement study was done outside of the work we do for individual organizations. Just as I was reviewing the gender gap that still exists in some countries around engagement, the challenge of gender equality was brought back into the headlines following a brutal attack in New Delhi.
In previous reports we observed how in North America and Europe gender was not a strong predictor of engagement (i.e., women and men had the same overall engagement levels and patterns). Elsewhere in the world, however, there are geographies with significant gender differences:
Engagement Gender Gap: point difference between percentage of men and women engaged/disengaged
For instance, this chart indicates that in North America, men tend to be marginally more Disengaged (2 points) and very slightly Engaged than women (1 point), whereas in India men are substantially more likely to be Engaged (11 pts.) and significantly less likely to be Disengaged (8pts) than their female counterparts.
As we detail in The Engagement Equation, there are still significant gender gaps in many societies. Far from being a barrier for employers, we believe this represents a significant opportunity for developing a purposeful internal culture that respects diversity and includes all employees in achieving the organization’s goals:
Extract from The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce
We find that gender is not a significant factor when examining an employee population in most developed Western countries. On the other hand, in countries such as India or the Persian Gulf, there is a noticeable gap (11 and 7 points, respectively) between men and women (with men being more engaged).
Overall, India still faces a large gap in education between boys and girls. Male literacy rates are 223 percent higher than those for females. A similar divide exists between genders in labor force participation rate and graduation rates by discipline. These broader gender differences are also reflected in company environments.
In China, gender inequality in the workplace is prevalent. The Chinese government admits “gender discrimination in employment is increasingly obvious” and is trying to address the issue. Still, the ratio of average income between women and men progresses from 68 percent with a junior high school diploma, to 83 percent for college education. So while higher education may narrow the gap, women are still significantly underpaid when compared to their male counterparts.
Similar regional or country-specific dynamics will be at play wherever your organization is based. These are factors that outside the walls of your organization are out of your control. But these factors present an opportunity to build a culture that is truly inclusive. Employees in these regions may place a much higher value on an employer that walks the talk on inclusiveness compared to employees in Europe or the United States where the gender gap, while still present, is arguably not as acute.
Baxter in Asia Pacific is an example of an employer that stands out for bucking the gender gap. The diversified healthcare firm has been recognized for its diversity efforts. It has set high expectations, including a 50/50 gender split in senior leadership roles in the Asia Pacific region.
“There are many studies that show the benefits of gender diversity in leadership,” says one of their executives in China. “In the China team we have 75 percent of women on the executive team.”
The greater the social inequality between genders, the greater the opportunity for the organization to use this as a lever of engagement for employees that are disfavored outside of the enterprise. This is true for gender and other criteria of social discrimination and has been the case made by human resource professionals working in the area of diversity.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from The Engagement Equation, by Christopher Rice, Fraser Marlow and Mary Ann Masarech. © 2012 by BlessingWhite.