Men for Inclusion Lived Experience Survey - Gender Differences
How women’s experiences are different to men and what we might interpret from that
Given that previous research has shown clear differences between the experiences of men and women in the workplace, it would be surprising if our survey did not find that there remain issues to be solved.
Of the 20 quantitative questions we asked, 17 were answered more negatively by women than men, 2 showed a small difference between the genders (< 6%) and only 1 suggested a worse experience for men than women. Of the 17, 8 had a percentile difference between men and women of more than 20% and 16 had a difference of more than 10%.
The 8 questions with big differences are:
● “Do you feel that your ideas are not considered in group situations or only heard when repeated by someone else?” – 68% of men responded “No” versus 35% of women.
● “Do you feel that you struggle to get your voice heard in group situations?” – 62% of men responded “Never” or “Rarely” versus 31% of women.
● “Do you feel that you are more frequently interrupted than your colleagues?” – 69% of men said “No” versus 43% of women.
● “Do you believe that the groups that identify with the same characteristics as you (e.g. race, gender, etc.) are treated fairly in your workplace?” – 57% of men said “Yes” versus 34% of women.
● “More broadly, do you believe that success in your organisation is based on merit? – 68% of men said “Yes” or “Mostly” versus 46% of women
● “Do you suspect or know that you have been unfairly passed over for promotion?” – 47% of women said “Yes” versus 25% of men.
● “Do you feel you get the same opportunities for career enhancing projects or activities as your colleagues?” – 35% of women said “No” versus 14% of men
● “Do you feel you have to provide more evidence of your competency than your colleagues?” – 26% of women said “Yes – all the time” versus only 2% of men.
This would suggest there remains significant work for organisations to ensure that the voices of women are heard and valued when they contribute. In addition, organisations must improve the culture, behaviours and values in the work environment so that women are treated, and are seen to be treated, in a more fair and equitable manner. This ranges from how work is allocated, how effective performance is measured and evaluated and how that evaluation feeds into rewards and recognition, including promotion and career progression.
Although the gender differences are less marked for other questions, there are further conclusions to be drawn from the gender data.
37% of men have never been insulted or dismissed when they have raised issues about workplace behaviours versus only 22% of women. Our experience is that men are more likely to listen to other men on the subject of diversity and inclusion, which may explain why we see a difference here. Although the question is about workplace behaviours and hence, is slightly different, it is more likely that the person who is insulting or dismissive is a man, so other men calling out issues of behaviour could drive improvements in this area.
20% of men in our survey answer “Yes” to the question about whether there is positive discrimination happening in their organisations, versus only 8% of women. This is slightly lower than other research which has suggested as many as 1 in 3 men now think there is positive discrimination in the workplace. There were 24% of men in this survey who answered “Sometimes” to this question which could account for the difference, although 25% of women said the same.
This data begins to show just how complex tackling equality in the workplace is and how thoughtful organisations must be in their approach to dealing with it. Changes to create better equality of opportunity and to create more balance in the demographic of their senior ranks must be accompanied by a clear communication strategy and ensure opportunities are not removed from those that have had better representation at senior levels in the past.
22% of women reported that they are asked, all of the time, to do more administrative work that is not part of their core responsibilities than their colleagues, with only 5% of men saying the same. In contrast, only 6% of women said this never happened, versus 14% of men. This finding is consistent with previous research but the gender differences are not as marked as other questions and potentially indicates some progress is being made in this area.
There is research showing that women are more likely to volunteer for these administrative tasks as well as qualitative feedback that women often feel that men do a poor job at these tasks so feel they need to do them “for the good of the team”.
The survey found that it remains more likely that women are told that they owe their position or success to their gender (or other personal characteristic), with 40% saying they had seen this happening to themselves or others, with only 21% of men saying the same. 76% of men reported this as never happening, versus 57% of women.
The one question which seems to indicate a better female than male experience in the workplace is the following - “Do you feel you get direct and actionable feedback from your managers?” – 32% of women answered “Yes – frequently” versus only 22% of men. This is curious as it does not tie back to other research in this area which suggested women did not get this feedback because managers, especially men, might be concerned with the reaction of female staff to direct feedback.
40% of women answered “From time to time” to this question versus 54% of men. One explanation might be that women, given their comparatively greater career barriers, are more likely to seek out regular feedback to ensure that they can tackle those barriers more quickly.
One key change from previous research seems to be around access to social networks and senior sponsorship. Men for Inclusion qualitative research often finds comments that suggest there is an “Old Boys Network” in operation with companies. This survey found limited examples of that from a gender perspective, with both men and women giving very similar answers to the questions of “Do you feel that you have the right access to sponsorship to make it to a senior role?” and “Do you feel that your workplace has informal and formal social networks which are difficult for you to break into?”.
It is possible that the pandemic may have helped with the latter question with teams within organisations becoming much more deliberate in their social event planning. For the former, this would potentially indicate that companies are having success with sponsorship programmes or similar activities which enable greater visibility of high performing, high potential women to be identified.
Despite these responses showing a more positive view on sponsorship, women still reported this as one of the top 3 issues that impacted their careers, alongside lack of transparency about criteria for promotion and not having access to the “unwritten rules” of how to get on. However, men also had 2 of these issues in their top 3 - promotion criteria and lack of sponsors.
Men’s 3rd highest issue was lack of visible role models, a quite surprising finding given the general makeup of the senior ranks of most organisations. It is possible that this reflects that the men completing the survey were already relatively advanced in their understanding of inclusion and were perhaps not seeing enough senior leaders in their organisation demonstrating those behaviours, although without further research, this is a very hypothetical assessment.
When it comes to these career barriers however, all rated on a 1 - 10 scale, women’s average scoring on those barriers were 5.13 whereas men’s was 3.29. This suggests men continue to see less impact of these potential issues and barriers to career success.