Valuing, Supporting Women Leads to Engagement

Women are as various as men when it comes to what motivates them on the job, but they sometimes face different obstacles that can undermine their level of engagement.

It’s vital that when a woman speaks up at work, “the people around her lift up what she says,” Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women, told Bloomberg BNA. Managers can help by “calling out” behavior in meetings in which a man talks over a woman, or a woman makes a point that goes unacknowledged until a man repeats it a few minutes later as if it’s his own idea, she said.

Opportunities to be successful drive engagement, according to Janine Yancey, president of San Francisco-based online workplace compliance training company Emtrain. “That can mean, for most women, ‘are my contributions going to be valued? Am I going to get promoted and paid the same as my male peers?’”

What helps women stay engaged is whether they feel respected, that they “can make a contribution at work,” and that they respect their bosses, said Ariane Hegewisch, program director, employment and earnings at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington.

Don Rheem, CEO of Arlington, Va.-based E3 Solutions, a provider of employee workplace metrics and manager training, has an overlapping perspective on this question. While he comes at it from the vantage point of neurobiology and the brain’s capabilities, he told Bloomberg BNA in a Sept. 15 email that “engagement killers in the workplace include a lack of fairness, predictability, and consistency. Typically validation, recognition, and constructive feedback are also lacking.”

Not surprisingly, NOW’s Van Pelt cited “equal pay for equal work” as a key driver of engagement for women employees. Van Pelt, Yancey, and Hegewisch also pointed to the importance of family-friendly work flexibility, which Van Pelt and Hegewisch added is also crucial to men with family responsibilities.

Besides that, Van Pelt cited long-standing NOW positions as crucial to keeping women engaged at work, including safety from sexual harassment, diversity encompassing women of color and those who are LGBTQIA+, and health insurance that pays for pregnancy, abortion, and birth control services, as well as breast-feeding facilities at work.

(The letters in the LGBTQIA+ acronym stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual; the + symbol encompasses other non-binary, non-heterosexual genders and sexualities that aren't covered by the letters.)

“Employers need to be conscious of and responsive to the unique ways factors like fairness and recognition are perceived by female employees,” Rheem said. “Perception is our behavioral reality, so asking questions, being curious about how the workplace may impact women would be time well spent.”

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