The key to engaging top female talent – close the trust gap

Outside of fear and appetite, there are few things employees are more primed to pay attention to than trust and fairness. “Is this a fair deal for me?” is a fundamental question many employees ask themselves at work—either consciously or unconsciously—on a regular basis.

A reasonable expectation of trust and fair treatment are the foundation for employee engagement and commitment. Mercer Sirota’s research shows that by offering a fair deal at work, employees are willing to go the extra mile. Decades of research at Mercer Sirota have established that fairness and the trust that accompanies it form the bedrock of any employee’s willingness to dig deep and work hard when it counts, which is why leaders should pay close attention to employees’ perceptions of these topics.

In recent years, much has been written about the pay gap between men and women at work. Global norms show that women experience a trust gap as well. Each year Mercer Sirota surveys over 1 million employees working in organizations around the world. When looking at these global norms and noting where the gender differences are significant, some enlightening findings emerge:

  • 47% of female employees perceive favoritism at work (in distribution of promotions, work, etc.)
  • 33% of female employees do not feel they can express their ideas/views without fear of negative consequences
  • 26% of female employees do not believe they can report an ethical concern without fear of retaliation

 

These results paint a picture of a workplace where a significant number of women do not feel empowered to speak up, speak out, or know that their voices are being heard. In light of recent sexual harassment claims and a renewed focus on women’s experiences in the workplace, employers should have a moral obligation to ensure they are creating a culture where women and men are treated fairly and can voice their opinions without fear.

There is a financial case for creating a culture of trust and fairness. When employees trust their colleagues, they are primed to do their best work, share their brightest ideas, and share their resources. When trust is difficult, they become skeptical, stop creating, and start protecting their turf. As many economist say: Without trust, markets stand still. Organizations spend millions of dollars recruiting employees. When organizations close the trust gap, they are creating a workplace where all employees, including female talent, can thrive.

For leaders and managers seeking to build a robust talent pipeline and a culture of engagement, these findings point to central questions: How much are concerns with trust and fairness costing in terms of the performance and commitment of talent? And, what can be done to close the gap? Thinking about the future of work, transparent pay practices, clear career maps, and work environments that are inclusive, collaborative, and psychologically safe are a strong place to start.


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  1. This is not a surprise, the problem is when trust is broken especially with people who place a high value on trust (and many women do) it’s hard to re-establish that trust. There is no doubt creating a culture where everyone feels trusted, is treated fairly and can voice their opinions without fear is an imperative for a successful organisation, but it’s not easy!!

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