Women in the workforce have made some incredibly significant advancements over the last decade, but career development concerns are still a very serious issue for many. While the infamy of that traditional stumbling block to advancement, known by many as the “glass ceiling”, has shifted considerably, many women find it still firmly in place in their efforts to move from middle to upper management. The core causes for this phenomenon are multifaceted—some women face an entrenched gender bias in corporate culture, while others may lack the required educational achievements or training. Whatever the source, the “glass ceiling” is still very much alive and functional.
Per the findings of the Denver Women’s Commission, while most women seek gainful employment in the workforce, they are still by and large the primary caregivers for their children, parents, and other elderly relatives. For this reason, many women are restricted from a full-time pursuit of their careers and professional ambitions, and thereby receive fewer opportunities for advancement and promotion. Far more so than their male counterparts, women tend to have to consider the needs and development of their children as the primary investment of their time, rather than their career path.
Harder Work for Less Pay
The Denver Women’s Commission goes on to report that, on average, women tend to earn significantly less than their male colleagues of similar station—as much as 72 cents on the dollar. In light of the cultural and economic disparity, many women also feel that they have to “prove themselves” that much more, often working harder and giving themselves less rest and down time in their professional lives; as well, the Commission finds that all too often women do not seek proper payment (and acknowledgement) for their overtime hours, due to a strong feeling of commitment and obligation to the company.
Education and Training Issues
As previously noted, many women are often overlooked and shunted to the side when it comes to promotions because they lack the required educational background. Given the longstanding cultural disparity, older women, in general, tend not to have the university degrees comparable to their younger counterparts. Often, family responsibilities and priorities make it exceedingly difficult for many women to find the time to take courses in higher education and pursue various job training opportunities, which quite frequently require travel and considerable time away from home.
Systemic Social Issues
One of the most significant obstacles women in the workforce face is the traditional mentality of the “old boys club”, wherein not only are women’s input not openly solicited and sought after, but is very often outright disrespected and dismissed. A highly respected authority on gender issues in the workplace, Barbara Annis, suggests that women often feel undervalued in business meetings, which almost certainly leads toward lower confidence and assertiveness, which in turns lessens their chances for significant career advancement. Extra-work activities, such as company golfing trips, tend to fall in line with the “old boys club” standards, sub-textually excluding female coworkers and denying them the opportunities such activities present, such as networking with higher-ups in the company. In addition, the colloquial “locker room talk” mentality, which is very often disparaging towards women in general, is a further contributing factor to a wide sense of women’s disenfranchisement in business culture.
Looking to Solutions
The needs of working women must be considered seriously by any organization or company that wishes to be considered progressive, taking into account the difficult balance of creating a healthy family and a good career. Such organizations may offer mentoring programs, which are designed to help women take initiative with career development and work toward policies to reduce (and hopefully eliminate altogether) gender discrimination. On-site training may be offered during the working week to be inclusive to women who, given other responsibilities, would otherwise be unable to participate and help to ensure positive role models for up-and-coming professionals by involved female upper management.
At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.