Gender differences in performance motivation

Men and women differ in their perceptions of what is important and motivating for good work performance, a Czech survey reveals. The distribution of both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards should, therefore, be tied to the specific needs or preferences of men and women.

The Research Institute of Labour and Social Affairs carried out an analysis on motivations for good work performance under a project entitled ‘Measuring the Quality of Working Life’ (CZ0502SR01). The results are based on an extensive employee survey, which was conducted in October 2004.

Motivating factors

Employees in the Czech Republic consider financial compensation, in the form of basic pay, as the most important factor motivating good performance. Positive inter-personal relations in the workplace are ranked in second place, followed by respectful treatment by the employer.

From a gender perspective, men place a higher value than women do on the so-called ‘instrumental values’ (basic salary and bonuses) as motivational factors in their work performance and identification with the employer. Women, on the other hand, place more importance than men do on inter-personal relationships at the workplace, respectful treatment by the employer, and the possibility of reconciling work and family life. Thus, it is clear that women place more value on so-called ‘soft issues’.

Table 1: Gender gap in key drivers of motivation and commitment
Gender gap in key drivers of motivation and commitment
    Extremely/ Very important (%) Important (%) Not very important/Not important at all (%)
Promotion opportunities Men 36.8 34.7 28.6
  Women 32.5 37.3 30.2
Long-term career potential Men 37.6 35.3 27.1
  Women 34.2 34.1 31.7
Learning and development Men 38.0 39.7 22.3
  Women 40.5 38.0 21.5
Flexible working arrangements Men 44.5 43.5 11.9
  Women 43.7 43.3 13.0
Bonuses** Men 58.2 34.9 7.0
  Women 52.7 37.4 9.9
Benefits Men 56.8 35.6 7.6
  Women 55.1 34.8 10.1
Work-life balance** Men 59.1 36.3 4.5
  Women 65.8 31.1 3.1
Nature of work Men 63.1 33.8 3.1
  Women 61.8 34.3 3.8
Providing good service to customers/colleagues** Men 63.4 33.0 3.6
  Women 69.1 28.9 2.0
Being treated with respect** Men 69.4 28.0 2.6
  Women 76.3 22.3 1.4
People you work with** Men 78.1 20.4 1.5
  Women 83.4 15.8 0.9
Basic pay * Men 85.0 14.2 0.8
  Women 80.4 18.7 0.9

Chi squared test: Statistically, significant differences exist between men and women at confidence level: * p≤0.05; **p≤0.01

Fewer differences at management level

Women and men holding managerial posts do not differ in the way they rate individual motivation factors, an analysis of motivation according to superiority in the workplace reveals. Gender differences were found only among rank-and-file staff. This finding supports the notion, often cited in specialist literature, that women in management adapt to ‘male’ thinking and conduct, whether knowingly or not, and internalise the values prevailing in a male-dominated labour market.

As certain public opinion surveys have shown (Kalnická, 2000), female managers are not universally accepted by the Czech public. The fact that Czech society still regards women in management as unusual may result in a greater likelihood of these managers encountering prejudice or discrimination. For this reason, it might be beneficial for female managers to assimilate behaviour patterns typical for men in the same positions. This kind of behaviour will more likely enable them to meet the general expectations associated with the role of manager.

Focusing solely on women, the logical consequence of the previous conclusions is the emergence of two different employee categories. Compared with other female employees, women in management are more motivated by: the nature of the work (67%, compared with 61% of female employees who stated that the particular aspect of work/reward is extremely or very important); the chance of promotion (48%, compared with 29%); and long-term career growth (47%, compared with 31%). Female managers are also more likely than other working women to regard as motivating the chance of acquiring new skills and opportunities for personal growth (57%, compared with 37%).

Perception of reward systems

Women regard reward systems as unfair and unrelated to their performance more frequently than men do. More than a quarter of Czech female employees are convinced that they are not remunerated according to their performance; just one in five male employees thinks so.

More women than men feel undervalued compared with male/female colleagues in the same position in the company. When respondents compared themselves with colleagues in the same position, 57.2% of men and 51.6% of women rated their remuneration as fair. More women than men also believe that they work in companies where they are paid less than employees in other firms in the same locality.

This suggests that, in the subjective opinion of respondents, there still exist a number of companies where equal and transparent, performance-related pay is not a matter of course.

Table 2: Fairness and transparency of reward system, as perceived by men and women
Perceived fairness and transparency of reward system
    Total (%) Men (%) Women (%) Gender gap (p.p.)
My pay is fair with regard to my performance and contribution to the organisation’s results 1 47.3 48.9 45.4 3.5
2 30.9 31.9 29.8 2.1
3 21.8 19.2 24.8 -5.6
I think I am fairly paid when compared with others working in a similar position in my organisation 1 54.6 57.2 51.6 5.6
2 28.1 27.3 29.0 -1.8
3 17.3 15.6 19.4 -3.8
Remuneration in our organisation is sufficiently performance-related 1 48.7 50.9 46.2 4.7
2 28.7 29.3 28.1 1.1
3 22.6 19.9 25.7 -5.8
I think that my pay in my organisation is comparable to or better than in other organisations in our area 1 46.9 49.2 44.1 5.1
2 29.7 30.0 29.4 0.5
3 23.4 20.8 26.4 -5.6
I think that my pay in the organisation is comparable to or better than in organisations in our sector 1 42.2 43.9 40.1 3.8
2 33.2 32.8 33.7 -0.9
3 24.6 23.3 26.2 -2.9

1) I certainly agree/agree rather than disagree; 2) Neither yes nor no; 3) I certainly don’t agree/disagree rather than agree.


Kalnická,V., Men and women in managerial positions. Survey information , IVVM 00-07, 2000.

Vašková, R., Employee rewards as a source of motivation. How Czech women and men in the workplace perceive them , Paper presented at the international Women, Work and Health Conference, New Delhi, India, November 2005.

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Eurofound welcomes feedback and updates on this regulation

Add new comment