Women in the workplace. It’s a hot topic these days. Maternity leave and equal pay. Being pulled in different directions. Leaning in. Climbing ladders. Breaking ceilings.
Some interesting facts about women and work:
- More women are getting 4-year degrees and graduate degrees than men
- While women enter the workforce at a higher wage than they used to, wages fall throughout their careers in proportion to men
- Women are less likely to ask for raises or aspire to management
- Women, in order to care for a child or family member, are more likely to have to reduce work hours, take off significant time from work, quit, or turn down a promotion
- Almost 4 out of 10 businesses in the top countries have no women in senior management
- Women make about 78.6 cents on the dollar to men, with minority women having an even larger gap
Granted, these facts can be overwhelming, but for now, I want you to think about just one of these facts: that women are less likely to ask for raises or aspire to management. Why do you think this is?
Why are many women so quick to downplay their ability to do a job or task? Why do women tend to wait to be almost overqualified for a position before applying, whereas men may tend to reach for that next level before being fully qualified? Why are women seen as bossy or too aggressive when they ask for what they want? Why do women often share the credit for a job well done? Why do women more often volunteer for tasks that won’t really improve their skills? Why are women so hesitant to ‘toot their own horn’?
Of course, some women are happy to have a job that gives them flexibility, and they are happy to do things for their family that come at the expense of their job advancement. And some women are shooting for that CEO position or the top of their field without any competing interests. And many more women would love to figure out how to balance the best of both worlds.
Especially early in my career, I was always concerned about being liked, quietly doing the work, sharing the success, and not bragging or being too assertive. That’s okay, but as a woman, I think it is also important for me to step back, become more self-aware, learn how to promote myself better, and carve my path to my own definition of success.
So, what are some ways I can work on this?
- Share my performance and successes with managers; don’t just assume they notice.
- Think how I can take risks, even if I don’t feel 100% ready.
- Network! Find a great mentor (or two) in my field who can give me advice and encouragement.
- Develop my leadership and clinical skills to improve my confidence.
- Learn not to take things as personally, not apologize so often, and not question my ability.
- Celebrate other women’s successes.
- Ask for what I want — and still be myself.
While all these can be uncomfortable, practice makes perfect. Figure out what works best for you, as a woman and an individual. Once you reach those successes and figure out the delicate balances, reach down and help someone else up!
US Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau
Pew Research Center