Men vs women: who makes the most loyal workforce?

04 September 2015 -


Guest blogger Ian Burke looks at what factor loyalty plays in the battle of the sexes

Ian Burke

The workplace has been one of the chief battlegrounds in the battle of the sexes for some time, and it’s a conflict employers of all kinds try to keep their distance from - without being accused of ignoring equality. Can data mark out a real difference? And where do our real loyalties lie – with work or the world beyond?

Traditional (and wholly justified) narratives around the gender pay gap often dominate the discourse around workplace equality, but recent surveys have sought instead to define something less clear-cut – namely, our prevailing attitudes towards work and our lifestyle priorities.

The 2015 Ernst & Young Global Generations survey found that men are as much as 8% to 10% happier than women to leave jobs or change careers to achieve a balance between work and home. Similarly, 57% of men were even willing to give up on a promotion, compared to 49% of women.

It would be easy to insinuate that these findings suggest women are more career-focused and less concerned with family than men, but this would be less than half the story. Men might be happier to pass up on opportunities because, quite simply, they can afford to.

Conversely, women are used to fighting against a culture that is often stacked against their progress – a system where there can still be a significant gap between the number of men in senior management and women.

The glass ceiling

As EY’s Karen Twaronite says: “Because of glass ceiling issues, some women may feel that they can’t say ‘no’ because they may never be offered the opportunity again.”

The inherent security in being male in a competitive culture can itself contribute to a false loyalty from male members of staff, who remain simply because they have found a mode of working in which they can progress quickly and with relative ease. Indeed, studies have found that women are more likely to seek new challenges. A 2009 survey discovered that 70% of women ask managers for new challenges, as opposed to less than half of men.

Who can blame them? Research from employment experts totaljobs found that women were disproportionately prevalent in more junior roles, while senior management remains predominantly male.

But work and the push for promotion isn’t everything - even hard-nosed bona fide business leaders know which side their bread is buttered. The Harvard Business Review interviewed 25,000 of the school’s MBA graduates between the ages of 25 and 67 and found that 100%, both men and women, rated the ‘quality of personal and family relationships’ as very important to them.

Parental pressures

Parenthood is often held up as one of these troublesome relationships that can prove to be a stumbling block in many careers. The common misconception is that women taking time out to become a parent is a barrier to professional progress – and as such a reason for them to leave their job.

However, this idea is based on an outmoded idea of motherhood – according to HBR, fewer than 10% of mothers leave the workforce to care for their children. New mums who do choose to leave their role more often look elsewhere due to a lack of flexibility on the part of their employer, or even a lack of progress or challenging work upon their return to the office.

Once you debunk the myths, it becomes clear that individual loyalty is not the question – instead, it’s a matter of the employer creating roles, environments and workplace cultures that people want to work in and engage with. The best way to foster loyalty – and productivity – is to offer desirable benefits and positive progress to every employee, regardless of their gender.

After all, it’s not a battle of the sexes - but a shared mission to build a mutual culture of equal opportunity.

Ian Burke is a director at One of the UK’s biggest job boards, it advertises roles across a range of sectors and attracts over 6m jobseekers, 110,000 live job ads and 2m applications every month. is part of Totaljobs Group Ltd; the UK's largest and fastest-growing online recruitment company that comprises of six job boards.

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