Men are more likely than women to be rewarded for supporting coworkers, research finds

A group of three young women and two men of different ethnicities are in a business meeting in a modern day office. A bald man is talking to the group while there are laptops and documents on the table.
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Good morning,

“Social support is definitely an important part of what binds people to work, and to one another at work,” Nancy Baym, a senior principal research manager at Microsoft Research, tells me. “It enables information flow, knowledge exchange, and advice seeking, and all of these things actually have impacts on outcomes for the company. It’s important for your bottom line.”

However, men may be rewarded more for supporting colleagues at work than women, even as women more frequently do so, says Baym, a coauthor of newly released research in MIT Sloan Management Review.

The authors set out to investigate the career benefits for employees when providing multiple forms of social support to coworkers. They identified 13 behaviors broken into the following five categories: emotional assistance, esteem reinforcement, social companionship, information or advice, and instrumental help (providing tangible goods or services).

Both the men and women surveyed offered social support to their colleagues, but men more frequently offered social companionship and instrumental support. Meanwhile, “supporting each other emotionally, whether that’s cheering people up, or listening to them, or reaching out to see how they’re doing, those are things that women were a little more likely to do,” Baym says.

All of these actions, by men and women, “demonstrate a certain amount of empathy,” she says. “What’s so important about social support is that you’re going beyond saying, ‘I feel your pain’ to saying, ‘I’m gonna try and do something to lessen that.’”

But men’s overall rating of the level of encouragement and rewards for social support available at work was 11% higher than women’s. “The questions that we asked specifically were about being rewarded with bonuses and promotion,” Baym says.

Women reported a higher frequency of providing social support than men but a lower potential return in organizational rewards and recognition. “This gender inequity is cause for concern, especially as women continue to display higher levels of occupational stress, as well as a greater willingness to leave jobs and switch employers,” the authors write.

The findings are based on a survey of 836 respondents who self-identified as men (438) or women (398), working in 15 or more industries in companies of various sizes. Sixty-one percent were managers, and 39% were individual contributors. Forty-four percent worked full-time in the office, 39% worked full-time remotely, and 17% were hybrid.

“We see in our data that women are more likely to go out of their way to welcome a new colleague, whereas men are more likely to provide career advice. Which behavior counts more?” according to the report.

The question then becomes, says Baym: “What kind of support is valued by the company?”

However, another factor to take into consideration is, “a very long-standing finding with gender is that even when people do the exact same behavior, it can be seen really differently when it’s a male person performing and then when it’s a female performing it,” she says.

Solutions for companies? “One thing that’s really important to get clear: What behaviors are we trying to encourage here?” Baym says. Other suggestions include “make the invisible more visible.” For example, in one-on-one meetings, managers can ask the employee if anyone has been particularly supportive—and how.

“It may be that some of the ways in which women are supporting other people are not getting them the recognition that they perhaps deserve in terms of how much their efforts are building the social fabric of their workplace,” Baym says. “Some of these things women are doing may be less visible, like I may not cheer you up in front of our boss.”

“The suggestions we offer are really meant as a starting point, not as a final point,” Baym adds, “because what works in one environment may not work in another.”

Sheryl Estrada

Big deal

A finding in a new report by Gallup is that consumers’ perspectives on their finances are nearly identical to 2022, but in contrast with 2021, when Americans were generally upbeat about their financial circumstances and momentum. For example, less and half (37%) of respondents surveyed in April 2023 said their financial situation is getting better in April 2022, the same percentage of respondents felt the same. But in April 2021, 52% of respondents said their financial situation is improving. Respondents were asked to name the most important financial problem facing their family, and inflation tops the list at 35%. The survey was conducted April 3-25.

Courtesy of Gallup

Going deeper

A Wharton Business Daily podcast episode, "Why the Debt Ceiling Deadline Is Closing In," discusses a new report by the Penn Wharton Budget Model that finds the shortfall of $150 billion in tax receipts in April is the reason why the U.S. Treasury is likely to run out of operating funds in early June. The Treasury and the Congressional Budget Office overestimated tax revenues by $117 billion in individual income taxes and payroll taxes, and $36 billion in corporate tax receipts, according to the report. Alex Arnon, director of Business Tax and Economic Analysis at the Penn Wharton Budget Model, discusses the findings.


Karyn Ovelmen was named EVP and CFO at Newmont Corporation (NYSE: NEM), a gold company and a producer of copper, silver, zinc, and lead. Ovelmen will join Newmont during the second quarter of 2023. She previously held CFO roles at companies in the resource and energy sectors, including Flowserve, LyondellBassell Industries NV, and Petroplus Holdings AG. Most recently, Ovelmen has been fully dedicated to the board of director roles at Hess Corporation and Arcelor Mittal.

Jeremy Hofmann was promoted to CFO at Zillow Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: Z and ZG). He succeeds Allen Parker, who will transition to an advisory role in the first quarter of 2024. Hofmann joined Zillow Group nearly six years ago and most recently served as SVP of corporate development and strategy, with experience in strategy, finance, budgeting and operations, investor relations, mergers and acquisitions, and partnerships. Hofmann led Zillow's redefined Housing Super App strategy in early 2022. Before joining Zillow, Hofmann spent nearly 10 years in financial services, predominantly at Goldman Sachs, where he was a VP in investment banking.


"Game on!"

—Linda Yaccarino, the incoming Twitter CEO, is ready for some competition as she responded in a tweet on Sunday to a TechCrunch article about Meta-owned Instagram’s plans for a Twitter clone, Fortune reported.

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