To progress in the corporate world takes focus, strategy, hard work and smart work. You’d like to think that would be enough, but for women in particular the cost can be much greater.
Talk to any 30-something woman and you will hear about the sacrifices, the attitude adjustments, the toughness, the lack of compassion, the boys clubs they’ve had to navigate through and around and of course the many hours spent away from their families.
It’s 2014, but women still need to be better, faster, stronger and smarter to get to the same level as their male counterparts. Yes, we still have we an entire Government Department dedicated to Workplace Gender Equality. The fact that we even need this representation says it all.
The general feeling most women have in the workplace is, that not all is equal. But it’s not just a feeling, the numbers actually back this up as well. Women are still paid less for doing the same jobs as their male counterparts in most industries. In fact, the gender pay gap has hovered between 15% and 18% in the past 2 decades and it’s currently sitting at 17%. Women are still penalised for needing to take maternity leave or working part-time to care for children or elderly parents. The penalty comes in the form of less pay, not being considered for a promotion or not being offered opportunities for additional training. Why do employers assume women are not ambitious or not keen on moving for a promotion? I would say let’s ask them first before passing them over!
And here’s the real clincher: Women are viewed as less committed once they become a parent, while men on the other hand, are viewed as more competent and reliable!
In my own experience as a business owner, hiring women between the ages of 30-50, be they single, married or a mother, benefits my business dramatically. I have found women to be great multi-taskers, highly productive and effective at meeting deadlines. They are lateral thinkers, great problem solvers and have an insatiable thirst for knowledge.
With attitudes prevailing, what can we as women do about it?
We may not be able to change the entire cultural dynamic overnight but we can start by making decisions that change our own career circumstances and who we are within our roles. Speak up and ask to be treated as equal. Make employers aware of their (often unconscious) bias in a polite and constructive way. For example often a one-on-one conversation pointing out that you are in the running for that promotion is already a great start.
I remember in my mid 30’s, working 80-hour weeks, I woke up one morning and realised that I was successful by accepted terms, yet unhappy. Worse still, I didn’t recognise who I had turned into and I started to realise how much I had sacrificed for my career.
In my pursuit to be treated as an equal, I had sacrificed living my truth, the softer side of my personality, some of my opinions and a lot of what inspired me, my creativity was thwarted, time outside work non-existent and a variety of relationships had fallen by the wayside.
Women throughout history have won many battles others thought impossible, lets add workplace gender equality to the list!