Women in work and learning

A spotlight on insights gathered surrounding female learners in the workplace.

Published 08 March 2019
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Women in work and learning

Through an analysis of over 10,000 work-place learners, it is apparent that there are three key areas where women differ from their male counterparts. This is not to say men do not possess these qualities, but our data highlights that in particular:

Women are ambitious

This is may sound like I’m stating the obvious and telling you something you already know, but here is where I think L&D are missing a trick!

Women in work are nearly 3x more likely than men to be motivated to learn by career progression. They are ambitious and actively learn in order to increase their future prospects within their organisation. Next to this, they are also 7% more likely to learn in order to do their job faster and better. This strong sense of loyalty to their organisation and desire they have to help their business succeed is often not recognised. If learning professionals could find a way to leverage these motivations and assist their learners in achieving their wider ambitions, there is the potential that women would more actively find time to learn. After all, at present only 1/3 women believe they have the time during their week to prioritise their learning and development which is 8% less than men.

Note here that regardless of their motivation for career progression, within our sample, 31% of women report to be in managerial roles compared to 40% of male respondents; even though more women than men have got a degree/diploma, more women hold professional qualifications (31%) and there are no major differences in how long men and women have been at their company for.

Why would women continue to learn if it was clear they face a larger challenge for them to progress their career within their organisation?

Women are social

This might also not sound like any great revelation, but it is interesting to see how women’s social behaviour differs from their male counterparts as this may help identify how successful your learning strategy could be.

When learning what they need to do their job, women find collaboration with other team members (60%), support from managers (38%) and general conversations and meetings with people (35%) the most useful. They gain knowledge through personal interactions and that could be why they are most likely to apply learning that has been taught on the job. Here, they can ask questions, gain support from the manager and create an active discourse around the content they are learning.

Beyond how they learn, 52% of women use social media within their daily work. With women being more likely than men to use: Facebook, Google+, In-house social networks, Instagram and Pinterest within their job function.

Is there a way you could use this information to adapt your approach to learning in a way that is more appealing?

Women are prepared

Last but by no means least, the approach women take to learning is one that ensures they are equipped to retain as much information as possible.

Remarkably, 100% of women in our sample say they develop knowledge and skills by taking mental or written notes, 96% also learn by asking questions and 92% say they welcome feedback as it helps them improve their work. This behaviour towards learning has certainly been impactful when undergoing training around team-work and problem-solving, as all of the women in our study said they have applied what they have learnt into practice.

Although women in the workplace struggle to find time for self-study, when they are undergoing it they actively try and retain as much information as possible. Unfortunately, their desire to learn is further hampered by the fact that they struggle to access the learning they need and nearly half of women feel their managers do not encourage them to learn, develop and improve performance (56%).

So what can we do as L&D professionals to change this?

The role of women in the workplace is vital. Making up just under half of the workforce in the UK, it is important that we recognise some of their key motivators and behaviours if we are to make an L&D strategy that is inclusive.[1]

[1] The World Bank (2017). The World Bank Databank [Online]Available at: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.TOTL.FE.ZS

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