Do Men Have A Gratitude Problem?

Men, in general, are less grateful than women. Here’s why that may be a problem.

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You might know Abby Wambach as one of the most celebrated soccer players in the world, a World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist. But in a commencement speech earlier this year to the “bad-ass women” of Barnard College’s class of 2018, she hinted at a phenomenon that has nothing to do with soccer.

Recounting her experience receiving an ESPY award, Wambach said that as she stood on the stage watching her career highlights “with the cameras rolling and the fans cheering … I looked around and had a moment of awe. I felt so grateful to be there … like we women had finally made it.” Later in her hotel room, however, Wambach said:

It hit me that I’d spent most of my time during my career the same way I’d spent my time on that ESPYs stage. Just feeling grateful. Grateful to be one of the only women to have a seat at the table. I was so grateful to receive any respect at all for myself that I often missed opportunities to demand equality for all of us. … Like all little girls, I was taught to be grateful. I was taught to keep my head down, stay on the path, and get my job done.

Wambach’s reflection on gratitude raises an interesting question: Are women socialized to feel gratitude differently from men? Do men feel less thankful? Does that give them an advantage over women? Or is gratitude a strength for women? The research to date suggests that women do tend to feel more grateful than men—and that this isn’t necessarily to their detriment. While a surfeit of gratitude may sometimes have negative consequences for women, a gratitude deficit may have worse repercussions for men.

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