Women in Construction Suffer ‘Praise Penalty’

As over two-thirds of female employees feel they deserve more recognition, how can construction companies do more to meet female employees’ recognition needs?

According to a recent study, female employees are suffering from a ‘praise penalty’ at work. Female employees are 34% more likely than their male counterparts to experience mental health issues, such as stress or burnout, due to not having their efforts at work sufficiently acknowledged. Some 71% of female workers feel underappreciated.

The Employee Recognition Survey – conducted by virtual team building and virtual escape room specialists Wildgoose – surveyed employees from 133 different UK companies. It asked them whether they receive enough praise and appreciation in the workplace, how they would react to a lack of recognition and how companies could better meet their ‘recognition needs’.

Around 13% of UK construction employees are female according to the ONS. Despite this imbalance, societal pushes to address it are gradually taking effect – Randstad research found there was a 9% increase in the number of women entering construction management roles between 2018 and 2021. Plus, this year construction firms and major-project clients like HS2 have pledged to work with non-profit advocacy group Women in Construction to accelerate an improved gender balance in the sector.

However, employers must focus on retention as much as recruitment, with almost half (47%) of construction workers citing the male-dominated culture as a reason why so many women leave the industry. For the female employees already in the construction sector and with a new wave of female talent entering, it’s vital for companies to ensure their approach to employee recognition includes all members of the workforce.

As well as affecting employee mental wellbeing, failing to recognise and value employees can also negatively impact the company itself. Over the last year, 42% of underappreciated female employees said their productivity has dropped, while 38% said they’ve lost faith in the management team and the company’s core goals.

Respect & Feedback

What form of recognition do female employees want? Data from the Employee Recognition Survey emphasises the importance of regular meetings and one-to-one time for female employees: 57% want private recognition through regular, in-person meetings with their managers. 54% would like respect from colleagues, alongside regular feedback.

Female employees value these things more than receiving a higher salary than the industry standard – which was cited by 43% of female respondents.

Public recognition from above also counts for a lot: around a third (32%) of women have a preference for regular public appreciation or shoutouts from management.

Commenting on the findings, Wildgoose managing director Jonny Edser said: “Everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated for the work they do, so recognition really is a basic need at work. And with more employees now working away from the office, companies have to take a step back and make sure remote employees feel equally recognised.

“It’s clear that many UK companies aren’t providing their employees with enough recognition – and firms should realise that can affect their bottom lines. When organisations fulfil the ‘recognition needs’ of their workforce, the result is motivated, engaged employees, who are less likely to be off through poor mental health.

“Here at Wildgoose, we offer a mix of in-person, hybrid and virtual events to help boost team morale and encourage relationships between colleagues and managers. Time and again, clients tell us that it really works.”

Kasia Richter, founder at the Wellbeing Strategist, said: “Praise is a form of recognition and acknowledgement, which is a basic human need. We all want to be seen, heard and witnessed. Some of us are more sensitive and have a greater need to be praised than others. If a person strongly identifies himself/herself with the job, it becomes even more important to acknowledge them, their efforts and their achievements.

“Recognition of employees is one of the most powerful ways to motivate them and improve the quality of their work, as well as making them loyal. And allowing employees to be heard and feel supported can go a long way to showing employees they’re valued.

“It can be achieved by creating a culture of open communication, transparency and fairness. Communicating requirements, providing support when necessary, encouraging self-discipline and self-mastery: all this will strengthen your workforce and keep employees feeling valued.”