by Roy Saunderson | May 20, 2011
With the study “Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being” just published by the Obama administration, which states that females earn about 75 percent of what their male counterparts make, the need to recognize women in the workforce has never been more critical. But should women be recognized differently from men?

While women are individuals foremost, we cannot stereotype what motivates them. But we can learn a lot from what women share with us. Thomasina Tafur, a women’s training consultant and a former FedEx senior manager who climbed the corporate ladder for 20 years, and now delivers her successful business acumen to the next generation of women leaders, shared the following effective ways to recognize women in the workplace.

1. Make mentoring a must. Provide opportunities for women to align themselves with a corporate leader who can coach and guide them professionally. This demonstrates that your company is serious when it comes to the growth of your female workforce.

2. Leverage the power of a personal sponsor. Some women will advance faster and stronger with sponsorship—especially when they’ve proven themselves but still are stuck. Sponsors can go to bat for them and advocate for their advancement in the company.

3. Put some creativity into rewards. When a female employee truly goes above and beyond, a cash bonus may not always be the best way to recognize the achievement. Keep in mind the value of a paid day off, giving her the time to catch up on personal matters or enjoyments.

4. Let them lead a project. In male-dominated departments, it is easy to draw on the same 10 people or the typical “go-to” person for leading a project or completing an important task. Consider bringing in a woman for such an initiative to give her an opportunity to stretch and grow.

5. Lifelong learning is an investment. Most companies have educational reimbursement plans for formal, long-term programs. But many women are parents (even single-parents) or caretakers for elderly parents, and those commitments are too cumbersome for juggling along training. Consider offering one- to two-day skill development programs to allow your female employees to hone the skills they need to grow on the job.

6. Highlight the female “leaders” who have no titles. Thomasina Tafur reminds us that females still tend to be the gender tapped for secretarial, executive assistant, and administrator roles. These roles represent a lifeblood of an organization and are assumed by quiet troopers who keep company administration moving like clockwork. Make time to honor them formally, in front of their peers and privately too.

7. Pay attention to expressing appreciation. Often, women tend to do better jobs of expressing appreciation, and they also like to receive spoken and written forms of acknowledgement more often than men. Stop and give frequent and specific thanks, especially at every stage of a big project.  

8. Find out how they want to be listened to. When a woman shares a problem, check in to see if she just wants to vent or whether she wants your involvement. According to Tafur's experience, men like to fix shared problems, but sometimes women just want to verbalize things to feel better.

9. Show consistent respect and courtesy. During Tafur's mentor training, she stresses that the one-time lunch and flowers for annual administrative assistant days don’t mean anything unless they are accompanied by ongoing appreciation year-round. Make sure your managers and supervisors understand the value of day-to-day recognition and are appropriately trained in expressing genuine respect for work and effort.

10. Reward equally and fairly. If there is one thing that irritates anyone, male or female, it is seeing someone receive a pay raise, an award, or some form of recognition when he or she feels deserving too. Tafur recommends that all organizations take the time to establish clear quantitative criteria for evaluating performance and distributing awards.

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the Recognition Way and president of the Recognition Management Institute, www.realrecognition.com, which consults companies on improving employee motivation that leads to increased productivity and profit. He can be reached at [email protected] Also, tune in every Tuesday to his radio show, Real Recognition Radio