The lack of representation on the leadership positions has always been one of the negative factors with the potential to slow down the development of the entire business landscape. With only 25% of women occupying the senior-level positions and only 6% playing the role of CEO, we have to ask ourselves how many talented individuals are cut off from managerial positions based on entirely arbitrary assumptions.
Judging by these numbers, it should be obvious that the vast majority of ladies need to overcome far more hurdles on their path to leadership positions than their male colleagues. Let us then take a look at some of these challenges and see how they can be successfully mitigated.
Sexual harassment was always present at the workplaces. It was only recently, however, when more brave women summoned the courage to go out publicly with these stories when we became of the horrifying scale in which these incidents took place. According to a recent survey, one in three women were sexually harassed by their co-workers. These numbers include the ladies occupying senior positions as well.
The prevention of such behavior largely depends on company policies and legal instances. Still, the ladies are called upon to stay brave and tirelessly report every sign of harassment.
More work, less pay
Although it looks like we made significant progress in this regard, it looks like the gender pay gap is just as relevant issues as it was a couple of decades ago. And the problem remains just as severe as we climb up the managerial ladder. For instance, when we take a look at the position of financial managers we can see that women have an average salary of $65,237 — a far cry from the $100,575 earned on average by their male colleagues. The problem becomes only more pronounced when we take a look at the women of color and different ethnicity.
The change on a wider scale would require tireless advocacy regarding the issues of gender segregation, creation of a business environment that will emphasize better work-life balance, and thorough enforcement of the anti-discrimination laws.
Maternity leaves have long been established as a way to ensure the women can start the family without having to compromise their professional life. Even so, it looks like this legal measure has a very limited effect. According to a recent study as much as 50,000 women lose their job each year over maternity discrimination. The ladies who find the way to their work often realize their list of duties has changed to the degree they can’t efficiently perform at work.
This problem can be solved only through the closer cooperation between the company and the mother on leave. The companies should give their employees enough time to re-integrate to their workplace. Allowing the other parent paternity leave during this troublesome period could prove to be of tremendous help. Once again, these issues can be easily vocalized through different grievance cells and complaint committees.
Lack of balance between family and professional life
As we already covered, women have to work harder to earn the same salary as their male colleagues. This often means making a great sacrifice in terms of private life. As a result, the family gets neglected, friendships lost, and the resulting sense of loneliness and isolation can even lead to some serious health issues.
Until things change for the better on a wider scale and women are allowed to earn in proportion to the labor they invest, employed ladies need to leverage their situation the best they can and use all the available assets to improve their work-life balance. The household duties should be as streamlined as possible and clean baby clothes always readily available at the fingertips. If the financial situation allows, it is always helpful to employ the services of a professional babysitter. Finally, the employer should be presented with the request to allow the work people to bring their children to work, at least in a limited capacity.
Lack of professional role models
This issue may seem trivial, especially in comparison to some issues we have covered above, but the lack of workplace role model can have a truly devastating impact on the employees’ morale and prevent them from making bolder career choices. This comes especially true with the women occupying senior positions who often lack someone to share their experiences and resort to for advice. Much like the imbalance between professional and family life, this issue can create a strong feeling of isolation.
Fortunately, this problem is comparably easy to address. The internet is filled with female-oriented support groups and countless networking opportunities. Also, it is good to know that some of these resources are tailored around the needs of the most vulnerable groups like, for instance, Latina and Hispanic women.
Finally, we have to cover some common interpersonal problems that are not related exclusively to workplaces but can still have strong career consequences.
- Alpha behavior — Although today we are talking about the isolated examples, the alpha culture has been strongly reinforced in the business world and its legacy is still hard to root out. Because of that, there are quite a few male employees who have a problem when it comes to receiving orders from a strong woman. Taking strong, uncompromising stance while using assertive techniques (e.g. “I think” or “I understand”) can go a long way in dealing with such behavior.
- Power plays — When we are talking about the corporate culture, we can always find a lot of examples of a powerful man trying to enforce their will on female colleagues through aggressiveness and power play. Some ways of dealing with this sort of workplace politics is sticking to personal goals, building personal circles of influence, and publicly exposing all aggressive statements and practices.
- Gossip — Last but not least, women have always been more exposed to gossip than their male colleagues. If anything, in this case, unfounded rumors can much bigger career-ending consequences. Because of this, companies should enforce zero-gossip policies and take proactive steps in protecting their employees from this poisonous behavior.
We hope these few considerations helped you to realize just how serious are the problems women are experiencing at their workplaces, even as they climb up the management structure. If you are one of the brave ladies who are facing these issues on a daily basis, we hope the resources and actions we’ve presented can help you to make your position if just a bit easier. The grand victories are often achieved with small gestures. So, let us bring the change for the better one step at a time.