Gender Differences in Motivation

We talked extensively about motivation at work in session 4 where we looked at the importance of money but also learned how motivation can to a large extent depend on the nature of the task that has to be performed by employees. I personally believe that motivation is an important topic for anyone who wants to work in teams and might have to motivate their co-workers. This is why I decided to do some more research on the topic of motivation at work.

During my research I discovered that there are substantial differences in the importance of motivational factors between men and women ( This particular article noted that money is the fifth most important motivator for men, whereas it is only on rank twelve for women. As this is not just a subtle difference, I decided to investigate further the differences of what motivates men and women. In the following, I would like to share with you some of the insights I have gained.

One of the first things I came across was this infographic by IDG Research Services that gives a comprehensive overview of what men and women value in their workplace:

Looking at the above graphic, I feel that men seem to be more motivated by measureable results. Success, meeting one’s goals and deadlines are all things that can at least to some extent be measured. For women, however, I feel that the factors that motivate them are more “soft” and less “hard facts” that are clearly measurable.

As this article on the Mobilink Careers blog ( notes, men indeed seem to be motivated more by “instrumental values” such as salaries or bonuses, whereas women seem to prefer “softer issues” like for example inter-personal relationships, acknowledgement or respect. The article also goes into more detail on the effects of some particular motivators on men and women:

What Motivates Employees

The Gender Divide: What Motivates Employees


1.     Financial Rewards

Probably some of the most important extrinsic motivators are financial rewards. Even though one might think that those are equally valued by both genders, this does not seem to be the case. As the article notes, men generally tend to respond better to financial rewards than women and they also work harder in order to gain them. This research by ILM quantifies these findings ( 41% of women chose base salary as one of their top three motivators, whereas 58% of men included it in their list.


2.     Acknowledgement

Praise and acknowledgement seems to motivate both genders. However, women tend to respond more positively to more frequent acknowledgement. As Roy Saunderson from notes, “Often, women tend to do better jobs of expressing appreciation, and they also like to receive spoken and written forms of acknowledgement more often than men. Stop and give frequent and specific thanks, especially at every stage of a big project” (


3.     Power

“Men are motivated when they feel needed” (  They named “power to make decisions and personal autonomy” as one of their main motivators according to a report entitled “Women’s Work?” written by Hay Group ( The relative importance of power for men is also depicted in the graphic below:

What Motivates Men and Women at Work?

What Motivates Men and Women at Work?


4.     Emotions

As the graphic at the beginning of this post has already shown, women tend to be more motivated by emotional factors. They feel the need to be respected, want their lives to be balanced and believe that empathy is an important resource for them. Whereas women want to hear encouragement and receive support for their work, men are more motivated by measurable success of their work.

Furthermore, as the above graphic “What Motivates Men and Women at Work?” shows, one of the major drivers of why women come back to work is recognition. This ties in closely with their need to feel respected that IDG identified as a major motivator for women. Also, emotions are closely linked to acknowledgement, which we found earlier is another important motivator for women ( “Intimacy, affiliation and altruism are all common emotionally connected motivators for women” (


As we have seen, there are several important differences concerning key motivators for men and women. Whereas men seem to prefer “hard” motivators like financial rewards, women are more encouraged by “soft” motivators such as appraisal or acknowledgement.

Hence, I believe that employers should not just apply the same motivational tools to all employees but think more detailed about what drives their employees, men and women in particular.



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