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Women Lead Men on Key Workplace Engagement Measures
Business Journal

Women Lead Men on Key Workplace Engagement Measures

by Jane Miller and Amy Adkins
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Women lead men on most engagement items
  • Female managers' teams are more engaged
  • Companies should strive to hire and develop more female managers

Gender diversity strengthens a company's financial performance.

Research from Gallup and many other organizations demonstrates this. Women bring distinctive viewpoints, ideas and insights to the workplace, and diverse perspectives lead to superior performance at the business-unit level.

Women bring another valuable advantage to their employers -- higher levels of employee engagement. Engaged employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work. These employees contribute to their organization positively. Gallup has found concrete links between employee engagement and crucial performance measures, including absenteeism, turnover rates, productivity and profit.

In the U.S.:

  • 32% of all employees are engaged
  • 35% of female employees are engaged
  • 29% of male employees are engaged
  • 41% of female managers are engaged
  • 35% of male managers are engaged

Female managers are also better at engaging their employees than their male counterparts are. Employees who work for a female manager are six percentage points more engaged, on average, than those who work for a male manager. Female employees who work for a female manager are the most engaged; male employees who report to a male manager are the least engaged.

Engagement is the most important factor for empowering individuals, teams and organizations to perform with excellence. And while outcomes matter, organizations often forget that engagement is also highly emotional. When employees are engaged, they work with passion and feel a profound connection to their jobs. They view their jobs as energizing and rewarding, and they like where and how they spend their days.

In the U.S., working women have the engagement edge. But there is an important caveat: While female employees have higher levels of engagement than male employees, only slightly more than one-third of women are engaged at work.

Women Lead Men on Most Engagement Items

Female employees have been more engaged than male employees throughout Gallup's history of tracking employee engagement.

Job choice may explain some of the difference in engagement levels between men and women. Our data show that a higher percentage of men than women say they work in manufacturing and production jobs, which are consistently linked to lower engagement levels. On the other hand, more women than men say they work in professional jobs, which are associated with higher engagement levels.

Along with the job they choose, employees have workplace needs. They look to their companies -- most often their managers -- to provide them with essential tools and information to do their jobs, to know and value them as people, to inspire their sense of belonging, and to support their professional development. When companies -- and managers -- meet these needs, engagement increases, and when they don't, it falters.

Gallup's Q12 employee engagement data show that female employees are more likely than their male counterparts to believe that their companies meet their workplace needs. Specifically, female employees outscore male employees on 11 of the 12 employee engagement survey items and outscore male employees considerably on five of those items.


Women Outscore Men on Most Employee Engagement Items
  How much women outscore men
  pct. pts.
Q01. I know what is expected of me at work. +3
Q02. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. +4
Q03. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. +6
Q04. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work. +10
Q05. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person. +6
Q06. There is someone at work who encourages my development. +8
Q07. At work, my opinions seem to count. --
Q08. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important. +6
Q09. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work. +3
Q10. I have a best friend at work. +2
Q11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress. +3
Q12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow. +2
The Q12 items are Gallup proprietary information and are protected by law. You may not administer a survey with the Q12 items or reproduce them without consent.


Female Managers' Teams Are More Engaged

Employee engagement is a puzzle for many managers, but female managers are more successful than their male counterparts at figuring out how to put the pieces together. Employees who work for female managers give higher ratings to nearly all of Gallup's employee engagement survey items than do employees who work for male managers.

The greatest differences in ratings between male and female managers are on items related to development. For example, employees who work for a female manager are 1.3 times more likely than those who work for a male manager to "strongly agree" that there is someone at work who encourages their development.

This finding suggests that female managers surpass their male counterparts in cultivating potential in others and helping define a bright future for their employees. This does not mean female managers are more likely than male managers to promote their associates. But it could signify that women are more apt than men are to find stimulating tasks that challenge their employees, thus ensuring that associates develop in their current roles and beyond.

Female managers are not only more likely than male managers to encourage their employees' development, but they are also more inclined to check in frequently on their employees' progress. Those who work for a female manager are 1.3 times more likely than those who work for a male manager to "strongly agree" that someone at work has talked to them about their progress in the last six months. This finding suggests that female managers, more so than male managers, tend to provide regular feedback to help employees achieve their developmental goals.

Overall, female managers eclipse their male counterparts at setting basic expectations for their employees, building relationships with their employees, encouraging a positive team environment and providing employees with opportunities to develop in their careers.

Find the Best Managers

Managers are key to engagement. They are responsible for not only ensuring that employees can successfully do their jobs, but also that employees feel cared for personally and professionally.

While female employees are somewhat more engaged than male employees, engagement is still a significant area of opportunity for many U.S. organizations. To move the needle on engagement, hire and promote people into manager roles who understand the value of treating people as people. Look for candidates who naturally want to help others succeed, and compensate managers on how well they retain, engage and develop people.

When hiring managers, talent and fit to role are most important, but organizations should strive to hire and develop more female managers.

Gallup data show that female managers' teams are more engaged than male managers' teams, and the more engaged a team is, the more it delivers on business outcomes such as profitability and productivity.

To make gender diversity in management more than just talk, start tracking success through metrics. Implementing programs can help raise awareness of an organization's initiatives, but keeping track of hard numbers and their subsequent increases creates accountability and change. Measure metrics annually, and applaud improvements as they happen.

Learn more about what it takes to attract, engage and retain a gender-diverse workforce. Download Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived.

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