Women’s career development is as big a problem as the gender pay gap

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It’s not the pay differential that really gets under the skin of female employees, it’s the persistent feeling that men are valued more, and women are being denied the chance to progress, writes head of The Happiness Index Tony Latter. Providing more and better opportunities for women is the way forward, he argues.

Female employees’ unhappiness about their lack of career opportunities is an issue as significant as the gender pay gap and employers should be addressing it. From a recent survey undertaken by The Happiness Index into workplace happiness it was clear that regardless of sector and company size, women did not feel as valued as their male colleagues.

When we discuss females feeling less valued, we aren’t solely talking about pay. It’s part of a wider picture of women feeling unhappier than men at work. This suggests the concerns of female workers are not being addressed, in much the same way as pay levels have been overlooked for too long.

Our study into workplace happiness used a platform called the Happiness Indicator which uses 10 key factors influencing happiness at work. This has allowed us to develop a global study into the views of employees and business leaders.

From the study it was clear the thoughts of female employees on “Career development opportunities” revealed a serious issue. Women across all levels of seniority rated their career development opportunities as 5.8 out of 10. This highlights a clear sense of unhappiness which needs to be addressed.

Our most recent study into employee loyalty and brand advocacy, using an internal version of Net Promotor Score (eNPS), correlated with our findings from the workplace happiness study.
Our eNPS research discovered what factors affected the loyalty and likelihood that workers would promote the business they worked for.

Survey results

We looked at the differences between men and women and what factors affected their eNPS. As with our study into workplace happiness, the results showed that men scored higher than women, meaning they were more engaged and satisfied at work. Men emphasised a need for higher wages and more opportunities for career development, while women focused on the need for increased appreciation, communication and respect. Both men and women highlighted a need to feel valued.

These attitudes are at the heart of the issue of unhappiness among women in today’s workplace. Our research showed that feeling valued was directly correlated to career progression.

Promoting access to development is one of the quickest ways for business owners and directors to improve the happiness of female employees at work. When workers feel appreciated and valued they are far more likely to be productive, remain loyal, work harder and go above and beyond for the business. Understandably, these traits are directly correlated with career advancement.

The development of initiatives to ensure everyone feels valued should encourage a culture of appreciation and recognition throughout the business. Career development and opportunities for personal growth are key components in establishing a culture which encourages engaged and valued workers. No one will feel valued if they feel as though their careers are stagnating and their ambitions and goals are not understood.

Men emphasised a need for higher wages and more opportunities for career development, while women focused on the need for increased appreciation, communication and respect”

By meeting with people regularly and setting and discussing agreed targets businesses can co-create a roadmap that helps people achieve their aims, develop their careers and ensure they feel valued.

Every member of each team will have their own ideas, opinions and, inevitably, concerns. It should never be assumed that everyone is completely fulfilled. This mindset is certain to result in people you regard as “valued employees” suddenly walking out the door.

Dialogue with staff

To combat this and help ensure an organisation is aware when people do, or don’t feel valued, business owners, directors and HR leaders must communicate regularly and develop processes where everyone can contact them. This opens a dialogue with staff to find out what changes they want to see, to help them feel happier and more valued.

Happiness is a catalyst for higher performance, enhanced creativity and productivity – all of which are vital attributes that employers will look for in deciding who should advance and fill higher-profile roles in the business.

To be successful and create the right culture, businesses need to introduce initiatives to cultivate happiness across as much of the workforce as possible. But our evidence shows there is still a lot of work to do to reap the benefits of a happier female workforce and putting more thought into career opportunities is a good place to start.


About tonylatter

Tony Latter is CEO, The Happiness Index

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