When It Comes To Being A Woman In The Workplace: Here’s What You Need To Know


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With the outlandish publicity surrounding this most recent election, it’s hard to forget the amazing strides women have made throughout history. Women at work are no different — generations have been struggling to prove they deserve the same opportunities, pay, treatment, and respect as men.

There’s no doubt women have made huge movements toward equality. Unfortunately, they still have a long way to go to reach the same benefits men have at work. Here’s a look into the impressive ways women have pushed through barriers in the past, and what they need to do in order to push through current career walls:

Where we started

Can you picture Rosie the Riveter during World War II with her bandanna tied high and her arm curled up around her shoulder? This is what most women imagine when looking back at feminine strength and growth in the last century. However, by the end of the war, Leave it to Beaver’s mother figure, June Cleaver, arrived on the scene reinstalling the image of the perfect woman as a homemaker — who somehow always had perfect hair.

Whether they’re fighting to climb the corporate ladder or working hard to hold down the home-front, it’s important not to forget how far women have come. In just four short years, we’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, and 1963 brought the Equal Pay Act.

All of these forward motions brought a flood of women to the workforce in one way or another. In fact, according to Gallup’s Women In America: Work And Life Well-Lived survey of over 323,500 adults, by 1990 the U.S. workforce was 47 percent women and 53 percent men.

Where we are now

Looking back, women have pushed forward in great ways. However, it’s crucial we continue pushing against the glass ceiling. While more females are in the workforce than in the 1950s, women continue to be promoted and hired at lower rates than men. With less women being elevated, it’s no surprise men still hold far more senior leader positions. In fact, the Women In The Workplace 2016 study by McKinsey of 34,000 employees shows that for every 130 men promoted, only 100 women are promoted.

Across the board, women feel they’re less likely to have meaningfully participated in meetings, recently received a challenging assignment, or have been turned to for their input. It’s no surprise that just 51 percent of women in senior management report they interact with a company leader at least once a week, compared to 62 percent of men, according to the previously mentioned McKinsey report.

In addition to not being given the same opportunities, women are 30 percent more likely than men who negotiate for a pay raise to receive feedback that they are being “intimidating,” “too aggressive,” or “bossy.”

Moving forward together

If you’re one of Gallup’s reported 48 percent of women who are currently looking for a different job, it’s crucial to know how to reach the position you want once you get there.

Find a mentor

Find someone who you relate to both in and outside of the office. Connecting with a co-worker — or anyone you admire professionally — who has similar interests and has followed an inspiring career path will give you insights on how to climb the ladder. When considering a mentor, look to someone who is positive, but able to give negative feedback effectively. Succeeding in your position will require both encouragement and critique to help you move forward and grow.

Make your goals known

Speak of your goals and speak of them often. If your goal is to grow with a company, it’s important to sit down with leadership to discuss that. Then, you’ll have the opportunity to find out how they suggest — and can help — you get there. In a September interview with MedReps, Caitlin Pappas, Vice President of Strategic Customer Management at Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies, described what happened when the VP of Sales position opened up:

“I went to my boss and made the suggestion that I might be a good candidate. His jaw dropped at first, but then I could see the wheels turning in his head as I made my pitch. A month later, I had the job.”

If you feel like you’re not getting actionable tips on how to improve, take a note from Pappas and dive in with a pitch. Explain why you’re the best fit for the job and how far your improvements will take the company.

If you deserve more money, say so

Asking for a raise isn’t an easy feat for most. The topic of money is stressful enough and asking for more of it creates even more anxiety. However, if you’ve done your research, understand your worth to the market, and realize it’s less than what you’re making, have a conversation with your manager.

It’s also important to know what your company can afford. Some organizations truly can’t budget for regular pay raises. If you’re turned down for a raise, it’s time to make a decision about whether the company’s values, benefits, and leadership are worth continuing to work for less pay.

After seeing what the progressive and brave women have accomplished before us, it’s crucial for females to continue on the upward path towards workplace equality. If there are no mentor groups at your place of employment for women at work, consider pushing to start one. Create a place where men and women alike have the opportunity to encourage women to step up to the table and fight for the rights they deserve.

What tips do you have for women in the workplace? Let us know in the comments below!

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.