BenefitsDiversity & InclusionEmployee EngagementNews Ticker

Closing The Gender Benefits Gap

Health insurance, well-being support, and paid maternity leave are vital to ensuring the productivity, engagement, and retention of women in the workplace.

By Maggie Mancini

A solid employee benefits package can be a major pillar to attracting and retaining top talent. Yet, nearly half of U.S. employees aren’t getting the benefits they need at work—and women are more likely to feel that way than men, according to a recent study from Perceptyx. The study finds that men are more than 1.5 times more likely than women to say their employer is delivering the benefits they need.  

HR leaders must understand that health insurance, mental health support, and maternity leave are table stakes, and that access to these programs allow employees to feel equally supported in the workplace, says Emily Killham, senior director of people analytics at Perceptyx.  

“Depending on the diversity of an organization, HR leaders might turn to continuous employee listening to gather better insights into what employees want and need when it comes to benefits,” Killham says. “Creating open lines of communication gives employees the opportunity to voice their needs or concerns about benefits without fear of retaliation. It also allows organizations to share details about policy changes or get real-time insights from employees about benefits that might be implemented.”  

She adds that it’s “critical” to assess and reassess benefits to fit employee needs as they evolve throughout different life stages.  

The survey further explores the trio of benefits that efficiently close the gap between men and women: medical, maternity, and mental health. Killham says women who have access to these benefits are 1.3 times more likely to be fully engaged in their jobs; 50% less likely to seek employment elsewhere; 33% more engaged overall; and 20% more productive than those without those benefits.  

“Businesses that address gender equity will experience greater success, as will their employees,” she says. “While larger organizations will have more flexibility in ensuring their employees’ basic health needs are met, smaller companies can focus on the quality and importance of their benefits offerings. Taking the time to align benefits with employee needs help bridge gaps, fostering a secure work environment.”  

Women who have access to the so-called “magic trifecta” of benefits are more likely to be engaged, productive, and retained than those who don’t. Killham says that outside of benefits offerings, HR leaders should look at what policies allow them to support work-life balance—these include things like flexible working hours, parental leave for all parents, wellness days, and paid time off.  

“Recognizing the impact that offering comprehensive benefits has on employees is crucial,” Killham says. “Employers must listen, act, and continuously evolve their benefits offerings to meet the needs of all employees and create an environment where everyone can thrive.”  

The survey finds that 59% of respondents have feelings of “benefits envy” when comparing their offerings to those available to friends and family members. Employers should ensure that their benefits packages support their current and future employees, Killham says. By leveraging employee feedback, organizations can avoid “benefits envy” among their employees and improve satisfaction.  

She adds that there might be more flexibility depending on the organization, though the ability to move into less traditional benefits is a “privilege” after employees’ basic needs are met. The study explains that 53% of employees say they lack coverage for mental health, 51% lack access to maternity leave, and 25% don’t have medical benefits at all.  

“Once those basics are in place, creating an open dialogue with employees is essential,” Killham says. “Allowing employees time to provide opinions, crowdsourced ideas, and evaluate the offerings regularly makes it easy to determine what kind of perks to offer to fill in some of the gaps. It might look like offering to pay for services nursing mothers need or making general services available to employees that an employer will cover the cost if not widely available due to state laws.”  

It’s simple to find out what employees want, Killham says. It’s how employers act on that employee feedback that’s crucial to obtaining meaningful benefits.  

The study reveals that organizations must consider equity in all workforce decisions. Killham says that there is an urgent need for employers to listen to the women they employ and recruit.  

“Employers shouldn’t think of this as a token gesture, rather it’s strategically imperative to unearth and address the unique needs of women in the workplace,” she says. “Continuously listening helps organizations determine if the scope of their benefits is meeting employee needs.”  

Tags: Current Features

Recent Articles