BCGMany companies are failing their senior-level women, with roughly three-quarters of those surveyed generating lower levels of employee engagement among female senior managers than among their male counterparts, according to a new report by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

The report, titled The Rewards of an Engaged Female Workforce, examines factors that contribute to engagement levels for more than 345,000 male and female employees at companies worldwide and calculates overall engagement scores.

The data shows that in companies in the bottom three quartiles of overall engagement scores, the scores of women increase by just 4% from nonmanager to senior manager levels, while men’s scores increase by a full 12%. In addition, the report found significant gender-based gaps in a number of areas that are critical to engagement, including mentorship, appreciation, and cooperation with colleagues.

Engagement scores for bottom three quartiles of companies


The study also found that companies in the top 25% of overall engagement scores had virtually no engagement gap between senior female managers (4.5) and senior male managers (4.4). Overall engagement scores range from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied).

“When companies do best at engaging their workers, women and men benefit equally,” says Claire Tracey, a partner at BCG and coauthor of the report.

“Having a culture and working environment that is great for senior women appears to generate positive effects for everyone.”

Engagement Gap Emerges with Seniority

The report shows that the gender gap in engagement emerges as employees become more senior.

Among junior employees in companies in the bottom three quartiles of engagement scores, women and men demonstrate similar levels of engagement: 3.8 for female nonmanagers and 3.7 for male nonmanagers. At the manager level, women (3.8) are nearly identical to men (3.9) in those companies. The biggest gap occurs at the senior-manager level.

“The engagement gap for senior women is important because research demonstrates that engagement ties to overall performance,” says Matt Krentz, a senior partner at BCG and coauthor of the report. “The good news is that this engagement gap can be addressed, as the performance of the top quartile of companies shows. Management teams that want to provide the best environment for their most senior women need to make it a priority and begin working to address the issue today.”

The report describes the steps particular companies have taken to address the gender gap in engagement, such as innovative approaches to developing apprenticeship programs, initiatives to foster interoffice cooperation, and making sponsorship a formal part of senior leaders’ review process.