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Bridging The Gender Recognition Gap: 15 Ways To Ensure Equal Appreciation For Women At Work

Rebecca Noori
Last Updated February 29, 2024

Over the years, we've seen some eye-opening statistics about women in the workplace. We know that women:

But, new data from Nectar’s employee recognition survey has revealed another harsh reality many women face. Female workers aren't praised and appreciated as frequently as their male colleagues—in some cases, they never receive recognition from those around them. 

Nectar’s CEO Trevor Larson shared his personal experience of the gender recognition imbalance: 

“I grew up with a working mom, and I know that at certain companies or certain times in her career, she definitely felt a lack of being seen or recognized for her contributions. It's something we need to work on improving to close the gap.” 

16% of US families now have a female breadwinner, and 29% of male-female spouses earn about the same as each other. So, how is society still failing to express gratitude to the women who give so much of their skills, experience, energy, and lives to their employers?

Today, we will unravel the current gender recognition gap and offer top advice on how organizations can effectively appreciate women's contributions and increase the frequency with which women are recognized in the workplace.

What Is The Current Gender Recognition Gap? 

Nectar surveyed 1,000 full-time US workers to understand the current state of employee recognition in the modern workplace. As you can see from the results below, some alarming discrepancies crop up when we asked women and men about their experiences.

What is the current gender recognition gap?

How Often Do Women And Men Receive Recognition From Executive Leaders? 

Praise from the highest level of an organization gives employees a sense of pride and can open important professional doors. This type of recognition signals that the people in power acknowledge an employee's work and may even promote them one day. Our data reveals huge gaps in how often executive leadership respond to women and men.

  • Daily recognition is reported by 7.6% of men compared to 5.8% of women.
  • Weekly recognition is seen for 18.4% of men but only 9.3% of women.
  • Monthly, 21.5% of men vs. 14% of women receive recognition.
  • More women than men report less frequent recognition quarterly and annually (18.4% of women and 17.6% of men quarterly, and 16.5% of women and 15.7% of men annually.) 
  • A striking 36% of women never receive recognition from executive leadership, versus 19.4% of men.

How often do you get recognition from the company CEO/Executives by gender

How Often Do Women And Men Receive Recognition From Their Manager? 

Managers are well-placed closer to ground level to understand the contributions of their direct reports. Our data follows a similar pattern to the executive leadership stats, painting a worrying picture.

  • 21.2% of men receive daily recognition from their managers, compared to 14.5% of women. 
  • 32.2% of men receive weekly recognition from their direct supervisors, compared to 26% of women. 
  • More women than men report less frequent recognition monthly, quarterly, and yearly. 23.6% of women and 23% of men receive recognition monthly, 12.8% of women and 11.6% of men quarterly, and 9.5% of women and 4.6% of men annually
  • 13.6% of women say their manager never recognizes their work, compared to 7.4% of men.

How often do you get recognition from your manager by gender

How Often Do Women And Men Receive Recognition From Their Peers? 

Peers understand their colleagues' day-to-day challenges and can offer praise for hard work in a genuine way. They may also notice when their manager fails to acknowledge a team member who regularly goes above and beyond. Nectar's data reveals that peer recognition is less available to women than men.

  • Daily peer recognition is reported by 36.8% of men and 25.6% of women.
  • Weekly peer recognition shows a similar gender gap—33.3% for men vs. 30.6% for women.
  • Women report receiving more recognition in the less frequent monthly, quarterly, and yearly categories. 16.9% of women and 12.6% of men receive monthly recognition; 7.8% of women and 5.2% of men receive quarterly recognition; 3.7% of women and 1.9% of men receive annual recognition. 
  • 15.5% of women never receive recognition from colleagues, versus 10.3% of men.

How often do your get recognition from your peers by gender

How Can Companies Level Out The Recognition Gap? 

Talented female employees and candidates don't want to work for an employer that doesn't acknowledge their worth. If you've identified a gender recognition problem in your organization, this won't sort itself out organically. Try some of the following expert-backed strategies to level the playing field in your company:

1. Recognize You Have An Appreciation Problem 

Balancing the gender recognition scales begins with an honest look at your workplace's current state of appreciation. Nectar's CEO Trevor Larson explains:

“The first step to improve anything is to accept and understand there is a problem, and the gender recognition gap is no different. From there, you can be more deliberate about how leadership sets the example to improve and also trains and coaches managers to do the same.”

The situation may be slightly brighter in your organization than the data uncovered in our research—or it may be worse. To learn more about your specific recognition culture, start by asking:

  • How do we currently recognize our employees? 
  • Are there any patterns or discrepancies between genders?
  • Are managers trained and held accountable for giving equal recognition to both men and women?
  • What recognition feedback do we collect from employees, and how can we use it to address gender disparities?

2. Give Women A Chance To Be Recognized

If recognition in your organization hinges on the quality and quantity of work output, give your female employees a chance to buckle down and do their work. This sounds straightforward, but research suggests that women are often bogged down by the company's extra housework responsibilities, which fall beyond the scope of their role.

In the book, "The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women's Dead-End Work," Linda Babcock, Professor of Economics at Carnegie Mellon University, outlines the vast difference between her and her male colleague George's daily work schedules. It's worth noting that "research" was a crucial part of their roles and the primary factor in their performance evaluation. Yet, George could commit six time blocks totaling seven hours toward this essential task. Meanwhile, Linda was so overbooked with additional faculty work that she only had time for a single one-hour research session.

Some women struggle to succeed because they spend more time on extra duties that don't get them promoted.

This kind of discrepancy is common for women in the workforce. Organizations that are sincere about recognizing women must first provide an equitable work environment that doesn't put them behind from the outset.

3. Deliver Bias Training 

Let's give people the benefit of the doubt—most leaders, managers, and team members don't set out to overlook women deliberately. Nevertheless, it happens, as Draven McConville, CEO of Klipboard, shares:

“I'm saddened by how talented women I've worked with are frequently overlooked or discarded. The gender recognition gap is subtle, from boardroom mistrust to performance assessments downplaying their accomplishments.” 

The way forward is to educate everyone in your organization, from entry-level to executives, on how their words and actions inadvertently support men over women. Business thought leader, professor, and founder of Business Guru Ron Stefanski believes in the importance of bias training. He told us:

“Helping individuals recognize their own unintentional patterns of favoritism towards those perceived as similar promotes awareness to course correct.”

It’s impossible to expect the ranks of your organization to reduce gender bias if your leaders aren’t setting an example. People in higher-level positions must receive relevant training to understand how their behaviors impact their direct reports and perpetuate the cycle of discrimination. 

HR consultant Conor Hughes, contributor of SMB Guide, provides a list of recommended training elements: 

  • Educate managers on gender biases and how to recognize women's contributions equally to men's.
  • Train managers to give frequent, timely feedback to women, not just in annual reviews.
  • Provide guidelines, tools, and templates so leaders can offer meaningful written and verbal recognition.
  • Develop consistent criteria for performance awards that minimize bias and increase the diversity of recipients.
  • Teach inclusive language and behavior in day-to-day recognition.
  • Share case studies on recognition done well.
  • Regularly refresh and reiterate these skills through workshops, online modules, and coaching.

4. Implement A Formal Recognition Program 

Has your recognition approach been based on dishing out ad-hoc “thank yous” and holding unstructured team awards throughout the year? Instead, Nectar’s Trevor Larson describes the value of setting up a formal recognition program to support your quest for gender parity. 

“Most organizations aren't equipped with the tools to drive frequent, meaningful recognition to any of their team members. It's not top of mind because there’s no engine driving it forward. When this happens, the people most affected by it are underrepresented groups within the company. Implementing a formal recognition program helps all team members, including women, feel more valued and appreciated. On top of that, leaders should make an extra effort to ensure that female workers aren't left out and that they are rewarded for their exceptional work.”

Whether you use a dedicated recognition platform or another approach, structure brings clarity to the conversation. Victor André Enselmann, Founder of Modeva, explains:

“We can fix the gender recognition gap by setting up clear programs for giving praise. This means making sure there are fair ways to decide who gets recognized, like looking at performance or specific things people do well.”

5. Set Up A Recognition Program Committee 

Developing a formal employee recognition policy involves creating a committee that oversees your program implementation. Building a team representing employees from all departments and levels within the organization brings a diverse perspective. A committee can also advocate for recognizing women in the workplace, ensuring they receive recognition fairly and regularly.

For this reason, Robert Kaskel, Chief People Officer at Checkr, recommends:

"Create a recognition committee led and comprised of at least 50% women. Ask what they want out of a recognition program and work to provide those benefits rather than assuming what they want recognition to look like."

6. Create Specific Standards For Employee Recognition

Your employee recognition policy can detail criteria for identifying employee achievements and delivering praise, resulting in a transparent and fair process. Creating specific standards can foster inclusive practices in your company culture, ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to be rewarded for their contributions. Attorney Thaddeus W. Wend, CEO of Feller Wendt LLC, explains that these standards can support compliance with strict discrimination laws: 

"Legally, employers should not practice any biases in the workplace regarding employee performance, so setting the criteria will eliminate any possibility of discrimination that already exists. If managers follow the standards, it will be easier for them to identify both men and women who are overachievers in the workplace."

7. Encourage Peer Recognition 

Top-down recognition from managers and leaders to direct reports should always have its place. However, peer-to-peer recognition can be a powerful tool in fostering an inclusive company culture. The recognition gap partially exists due to the lack of opportunities for women to showcase their achievements to their colleagues and superiors.

Ritesh Raj, Chief Operating Officer of CuddlyNest, shares what happens when you give employees more visibility into each other's hard work: 

“By encouraging employees to recognize the efforts of their colleagues, we can foster a more inclusive environment. This also helps in breaking down hierarchical barriers and promotes a sense of camaraderie among the team.”

8. Recognize The Value Of The Contribution, Not The Wins

Corporate environments are obsessed with the win. We set ambitious goals, check off milestones along the way, and celebrate success when we cross the finish line. The problem? This approach makes it easy to overlook the countless outstanding contributions that make the win possible.

Example: Sales manager Paul consistently exceeds his targets and breaks records year after year. He receives regular accolades, bonuses, and promotions. But what you don't witness is that his colleague Jenny, a sales support specialist, spent countless hours sifting through data to identify the correct leads. Recognizing Jenny's efforts in contributing to Paul's success can go a long way in promoting gender balance at work.

CEO Amy Bos explains how Mediumchat Group focuses on these key contributions to build a culture of gratitude and bridge the gender appreciation gap: 

“Each and every team member is recognized for not only their wins but for their contribution. A simple “thank you” or a “good job” makes all the difference. More formally, we track performance, scoring individuals for meeting objectives, goals, and targets. Each individual is formally recognized for their contribution monthly.”

9. Focus On “What” Rather Than “Who” 

Another way to overcome gender bias is to focus on the specific achievements, positive behaviors, or completed activities rather than who accomplished them. For example, if John and Jane both win a new client for your organization this quarter, but only John is praised in a company-wide town hall, then clearly something has gone wrong.

By setting recognition standards based on the outcome of an achievement rather than who accomplished it, you can eliminate any potential biases.

Resume Worded VP Kimberley Tyler-Smith furthers this concept by establishing blind nomination processes for awards and recognition programs. She shares:

"This removes unconscious bias and empowers colleagues to champion outstanding work, regardless of who did it. By focusing on concrete contributions, we foster a culture of meritocracy and inclusivity, where women's accomplishments shine through."

10. Introduce Mentoring For Female Employees 

Just as talk show host Oprah Winfrey received mentorship from memoirist Maya Angelou, the women in your organization could also benefit from participating in a mentorship program. This is especially true if you work in a male-dominated industry or company, where women must work even harder to receive the accolades they deserve.

PR & Media Coordinator Riva Jeane May Caburog for Nadrich & Cohen explains how this works: 

“Mentors can support women who are newer in the field and can provide advice in navigating professional hurdles. Similarly, sponsors can actively speak up for you and help you get the same promotions and opportunities. Through them, women will not be alone in fighting for recognition in their respective fields, especially if they perform equally or better than their male counterparts.” 

Mentorship also offers meaningful connection opportunities and ensures that high-potential women are visible to executive leadership. Conor Hughes shares how this impacts recognition and the opportunities that come from it: 

“By formally sponsoring emerging female talent, leaders give women exposure to executive decision-makers through introductions, invitations to key meetings, and recommendations for advancement. This puts them "on the radar" for leadership roles. Sponsors actively advocate for women to take on stretch assignments and projects that demonstrate their capabilities. They place talented women on important teams where executives can observe their skills.
When promotion opportunities arise, sponsors recommend women and share positive feedback on their performance and potential. This gives decision-makers comprehensive insight into female candidates. Sponsors connect women to senior leader mentors who can also champion them and provide guidance on navigating upper management.”

11. Create An Inclusive Remote And Hybrid Work Culture

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, more women work remotely than men. In 2022, 41% of women spent part or all of their time working from home, compared to 28% of men. This is largely due to women requiring flexible work arrangements to fit alongside their caregiver responsibilities.

More women are doing their jobs at home

While remote and hybrid work models are a major advantage to many workers, they result in an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it comes to recognition. Without a physical presence in the office, it’s easier to overlook women’s contributions.

To address this, companies should prioritize creating an inclusive remote and hybrid work culture where all employees are recognized and appreciated equally. This includes implementing regular check-ins with remote workers, providing opportunities for virtual team building and recognition events, and personalizing rewards so they're relevant to your distributed team members.

12. Celebrate Women In Your Workplace

Some female employees find it hard to toot their own horns. TechSmith CEO Wendy Hamilton considers why women don’t always receive the recognition they deserve:

“Women in the workplace tend to place a higher priority on humility, in themselves and in other women, as a core value. They’re less likely to communicate successes upward and ask for recognition. Encouraging peers to provide everyday recognition, and providing a variety of mechanisms to recognize each other, ensures recognition is given even when it's not asked for."

Wendy's insights are backed by an academic gender-based study on self-promotion, where female participants intentionally chose to be invisible, even though they were aware of the importance of being visible. The women didn't want to be perceived negatively by their male corporate leaders; they felt inauthentic when using self-promotion techniques, and they also chose to stay out of the limelight to pursue a better work-life balance.

Yet, your organization's high-performing women can benefit from others profiling and showcasing them using various internal and external methods. DailyRemote's Talent Acquisition Specialist, Daniel Wolken, believes this is integral to highlighting achievements to decision-makers. Some of his ideas include: 

“Internally, profiling women in company newsletters, the intranet, or emails from leadership highlighting their recent wins. For example, sending an email announcing, “Congratulations to Sarah for landing the Johnson account!” makes her work visible to all employees. Featuring a “Woman of the Month” in internal communications educates peers on female employees’ talent.
Externally, women can be spotlighted through company social media, press releases, client newsletters, and PR campaigns about diversity. Featuring their expertise raises awareness externally, too. Additionally, they can speak at industry conferences, represent the company on panels, and participate in community events as a representative of the organization."

13. Accommodate Different Personality Types In Your Recognition Program 

According to the Myers-Briggs system, every employee in your organization has one of 16 personality types. The Myers-Briggs system comprises classification pairings of introverted or extroverted, sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving. There's no "right" type of personality, as everyone brings their strengths to the table. However, understanding that every person is different in how they think and process information will help you devise a comprehensive recognition program.

We spoke to John Hackston of the Myers-Briggs Company, who compared Nectar's recent gender recognition data to similar data from his organization. He shared why a combination of old-fashioned sexism and different personality types can result in women not being recognized and, ultimately, shut out of the boardroom: 

“The Myers-Briggs Company looked at data from 1.8 million people who had completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality assessment over the last 20 years. We found that twice as many men as women reached top management or executive level, and over half of women were in non-supervisory or entry-level jobs, compared with 37% of men. The situation has improved slightly over the last 20 years—but is doing so at a snail’s pace. It's likely that sexism, plain and simple, lies behind some of this difference, but there are other factors at play here, too.
In personality terms, women are more likely than men to have an MBTI personality preference for "Feeling"—they want to base their decisions on values and how people will be affected by the decision. Men are more likely to have an MBTI personality preference for "Thinking" —they want to base their decisions on what they see as objective logic.
In most organizations, it's the "Thinking" approach that gets you recognized, rewarded, and promoted, and in our data, almost three-quarters of people at senior levels have a "Thinking" preference.
Women who get promoted are much more likely to have a "Thinking" preference than those who don't. All of this means that the people angle is not always taken into account in senior management decisions, something that can backfire badly. Valuing both the "Thinking" and "Feeling" approaches is likely to result in better decisions – and more recognition for women in the workplace."

14. Make Gender Equality A Year-Round Event 

Events like International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month are important dates for your calendar. They’re a chance for your DEI teams to spotlight female employees and discuss gender equality. The risk, however, is that once the month or day passes, these initiatives are quickly forgotten until next year. Instead of making recognition and inclusion a one-time event, use it as an opportunity to raise awareness and kickstart ongoing conversations around gender disparity.

Company Director Jason Boyd explains why Evolve SEO Agency hosts events on gender equality throughout the year: 

“It shouldn't take celebration months to acknowledge gender inequality and inadequate policies surrounding this topic. Creating a workspace that encourages and recognizes contributions from female peers is crucial, so we have inclusive events that allow female employees, colleagues, and industry professionals to highlight their work and successes. It's a regular program inviting them to speak and mentor at work.”

15. Monitor Your Recognition Program’s Effectiveness 

To prevent women from being under-recognized for their contributions, it's important to review and monitor your recognition program for gender bias regularly. Data is your friend here. Leverage analytics gathered from the following sources to identify any discrepancies in recognition among your people:

  • Employee pulse surveys
  • Stay and exit interviews 
  • 1:1 meetings 
  • Focus groups 
  • Nominations and winners of employee awards 
  • Recipients of points-based rewards

If your data points to a gender gap, look to address it by adjusting your program and practices accordingly.

Monitoring your program by talking with employees helps reduce gender bias.

Close The Gender Recognition Gap With Nectar 

Women need to work in a workplace where they feel valued and appreciated for their contributions. If you want to build a formal recognition program, Nectar offers an all-in-one suite of tools to establish an inclusive appreciation framework in your organization. Our dedicated recognition platform includes:

  • Recognition: Peers, managers, and leaders give praise and redeemable points to each other via shoutouts on Nectar's social feed. It's easy for leaders to track who engages with this tool and whether female employees receive equitable gratitude for their accomplishments.  
  • Rewards: All employees can exchange their Nectar points for a wide variety of rewards. With a choice of Amazon products, gift cards, charity donations, company swag, and custom rewards, there’s something for everyone on your team. 
  • Milestones: Every employee who joins your organization will automatically receive a celebratory message and points on their birthday and work anniversary. 
  • Challenges: Leaders can create custom challenges related to wellness, workplace training, employer branding, or anything else. With quick access to data, it's easy to track who engages with your challenges, so you can adjust what's available if needed.
  • Awards: Companies can motivate their employees by setting up regular awards, such as “Employee of the Month.” For an equitable approach, clarify what employees must do to receive a nomination, who will decide the winner, and how they will be rewarded. 

Ready to eliminate the gender recognition problem in your organization? Arrange a free Nectar demo today.

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