Empowering Women Through Recognition and Appreciation: 5 best practices
by Toby Barazzuol on Friday Mar 8, 2019

Empowering Women Through Recognition and Appreciation: 5 Best Practices


In honour of International Women’s Day, we wanted to take a closer look at the idea of empowering women through recognition and appreciation. As an awards maker, we are fortunate to work with a lot of great organizations that uplift and empower women through recognition and appreciation. For some, recognizing women is simply built into the diversity of their ongoing recognition programs, while for others it’s in the form of events such as the Women of Worth or Most Influential Women in Finance. All are celebrations of excellence, leadership, achievements, and community - intended in part to empower those being recognized, by raising their profile and generating new opportunities.


Recognition is an effective way to bestow confidence and empower people. It tends to have an uplifting and transformative effect on the recipient as they begin to see themselves in a new light and feel newly appreciated by those in their community. Recognition awards can also play an important role in career development, as author Anne Lincoln explains,

“Awards are close cousins of peer-reviewed publications, as they provide important external markers of professional achievement and are instrumental for shaping and advancing careers, including promotion and tenure decisions” [1].

So if we are building a society that empowers women and values equality, we should be recognizing and celebrating women whenever possible, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Data is scarce, though it appears that women are under represented in receiving recognition and awards. The Kellog School of Management recently studied gender disparity across 628 scientific awards and found that women only won 5% of them between 1968 to 1977, rising to 27% between 2007-2017.


Out of curiosity, we took a random sample of 60 award projects that we produced in recent years. To our surprise, out of 497 awards we produced, only 36% were presented to women! Clearly there is room for improvement. With that in mind, here are 5 best practices to help ensure that more women are recognized, celebrated and empowered:

1. Develop a culture of recognition and appreciation. It’s not only about awards, it’s also about recognizing people in the moment, acknowledging efforts, and creating spaces for people to appreciate one another.  

2. Form a recognition team or committee. When developing recognition awards or programs, it’s helpful to have a few perspectives. A team of 3-5 people usually works best and aim for a majority of women.

3. Create a formal recognition program. This is a great way to engage people and communicate your organization’s values. Choose some qualities or behaviours that highlight your values and then recognize the people that model those qualities. Start small and build on successes.

4. Review your recognition program and awards. What percentage of your awards are actually being received by women vs men? If the numbers are skewed, it may be time to revisit the qualities you are recognizing or the application process or the way the recognition is being presented.

5. Learn to give and receive recognition and praise. The ability to give praise and encouragement is a leadership skill. For recipients, it’s important to know how to graciously accept recognition with a simple acknowledgement as opposed to brushing it off as an act of humility. How you accept praise can affect how your contribution is perceived by your peers.


Are there other practices you have for recognizing and empowering women in your communities? Let us know so we can all share and improve!




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