Despite many strides, workplace inequality is still a major issue impacting today’s career-women. Many female professionals have had to face obstacles that men simply haven’t. Women are forced to handle unconscious bias, slights that can result in a loss of a well-deserved promotion, the frustration of not making the same amount for the same quality work as your male peers, feeling excluded from the “boys-club,” and other issues that can harm our morale. Women need to be diligent in handling these scenarios in their workplaces; however, the task can sometimes feel like an uphill battle.
In this case, we turn to the best people to provide advice on this issue: other professional women.
Women are often overlooked for a promotion or a raise.
One issue that many women consistently discuss is getting overlooked for a promotion or raise in favor of their male (often less qualified) peers. Phedra Arthur, a principal consultant, project innovator, and manager of the Human-Centered Project Management Blog, faced this scenario early on in her career. Although she was the first hire in her company and the person who single- handedly created the company processes and selected the tools with which they would work, she was overlooked for a promotion in favor of the very person that she trained. Essentially, she laid the groundwork only to be slighted for a male employee. Even after he was promoted, she had to continue training him.
Noelle Rose Andressen (esteemed performer, activist, and founder of the contemporary ballet dance company, “Rubans Rouges Dance”) faced similar discrimination in a different field: ballet. She has faced a number of scenarios in which her male counterparts are paid more simply because they are male. Despite higher levels of experience and working much harder, she was still paid less than her male counterparts.
While this is discouraging and can obviously impact morale and output, Arthur emphasizes the importance of “bringing your whole self to work” regardless of what happens. In fact, she says, you need to do twice the work and then keep track of your success. Learning to deal with workplace discrimination as a woman (and more so as a woman of color) is currently, and unfortunately, a reality. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stick up for yourself. Make sure you have access to fair performance reviews and one-on-one meetings. Ask explicit and hard questions. Have a plan with regards to the conversations you need to have and how you need to have them.
Both Arthur and Andressen have emphasized the importance of speaking up. If you present the factual truth, Andressen says, you can win. But that means that you need to make an effort to protect yourself. She armed herself with attorneys and an agent for future engagements. She maintained documentation. She is now well-respected, but this did not come without effort on her behalf. And sometimes, Arthur states, standing up for your values means leaving. Do not tolerate inequality. Good companies are out there and you can find one.
Female visibility in male dominated fields is an issue.
In male dominated fields, women often feel unseen. Sometimes women will not feel like workplace equality or a certain career trajectory is available to them if they have not seen those spaces being previously occupied by women. Often, these places take the shape of a “boys-club,” a place that feels like female exclusion is inevitable. The tech industry is one example of this. While traditionally male-dominated, having women speak about their experiences in the field has encouraged other women to pursue careers in this arena. As Line Casperson, the Senior Vice President at Nigel Frank International, said, women (especially minority women) in tech are automatically progressive. As a result, what you say matters. Showing other women what you do and how you do it (whether through blogging, social media, mentorship, etc.) can encourage others to do the same.
Mentorship, she says, may be particularly important. There are various ways to support other women in the workplace. Sometimes this means standing up for them, but it can also mean helping women weed out certain learned behaviors such as not allowing themselves the space to speak or employing self-deprecating behaviors such as excessive modesty or deflection of praise.
Another male dominated field is the restaurant industry where the wage gap and persistent female exclusion are rampant. As Alla Malina, upper manager in the restaurant industry and founder of Chive Creative Co., said, the restaurant and hospitality industries can feel a lot like a boys club. This means both social and professional exclusion. Malina has not received the well-deserved praise her male counterparts would for such accomplishments as achieving high sales, and increasing efficiency. Despite saving the restaurant money, smoothing operations, and taking huge initiatives, she was not as recognized as her male counterparts. The same can be said of the food industry’s social setting: Because most of her co-workers were male, she was excluded from gatherings outside of work and her perspective was then further marginalized.
Despite this discouragement, she echoes the advice of many other women: Be firm and professional. Do not allow yourself to go unnoticed. Continue to work harder than everyone else and demand the recognition for that.
While the issue of workplace equality is undoubtedly complex and there are a number of factors that contribute to it, supporting other women is a good start. Listening to what professional women have to say and reaching out for their support can begin to lessen workplace gender disparity and allow women to occupy the spaces that they deserve to occupy.
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.