Why being adaptable in the workplace can benefit women

Women who display adaptive team member behaviour are recognised more than men, a University of Western Australia study has found.
By: | March 16, 2023

Being an adaptive team member is one way women can address ongoing gender inequities in the workplace, as they are recognised more than their male counterparts for adapting to changes in their work teams.

Dr Joseph Carpini, a lecturer at the University of Western Australia, said, “While women are a vital segment of the workforce, it’s well-recognised that their performance at work is often underappreciated. We know what gender stereotypes interfere with how work behaviours are perceived and valued, and stereotypes help explain why women’s work contributions might be taken for granted.”

Conversely, men are often noticed and rewarded for demonstrating stereotypical masculine behaviours, a research co-authored by Dr Carpini found. These differences, he explained, contribute to ongoing workplace inequalities by affecting how the work-related behaviours of women and men are perceived and evaluated.

In understanding whether adapting to changes could be a type of work behaviour for which women were recognised and rewarded, the researchers found that team member adaptivity, which includes stereotypes-consistent elements for women such as being collaborative and cooperative, while working to achieve organisational goals, was a distinct type of work behaviour.

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Female employees who engage in team adaptivity were recognised more than men, which has practical implications for performance appraisal systems that might integrate recognition for being adaptive to change.

Dr Carpini concluded, “Employees, and in particular women, should be encouraged to be flexible when working with others as they may benefit. Even though we found women were recognised more, men weren’t punished or ignored, so they shouldn’t be discouraged from being adaptive when working with others.”