We all want great new career opportunities—whether that is being promoted, getting a raise or becoming a manager. And we often work towards such goals. However, could your sex determine which career opportunities you are being offered? A slew of recent studies suggest that, yes, your gender could influence your occupational growth. So ladies, we have to take action and create our own opportunities. As smart, savvy women, we say, bring it on!
Here are six career opportunities women sometimes miss and how to get them back.
1. Joining a Board
If you look at the companies on the Fortune 1000 list, less than 15% of boards have female directors. In fact, there are 139 boards that have no women at all! Joining a board can be a wonderful career opportunity—members are able to learn about the inner workings of a company, network with fellow board members and add a prestigious position to their resume. So, how can women get more opportunities to join boards?
What You Can Do: There are more than 1,100 board members on the Fortune 1000 list who are over 70 years of age. Soon there will be vacancies ready and waiting for eager, intelligent women to fill them. Luckily, recent studies have shown that boards with women actually perform better. However, many companies complain that it is difficult to find women who want to be on boards, so speak up! Identify a few smaller local companies or non-profits you admire and let them know you are looking to sit on a board. You can also educate yourself about what it means to be on a board by having informational interviews with CEO’S or upper level management. Then be patient, boards often take on new members during certain times of the year so encourage them to keep your name on file.
2. Making More Money
After the 2010 Census came out, it became clear that the gender pay gap is not a myth. In fact, out of 265 of the nation’s top jobs, men make more money in 264 of them. On average women make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Shockingly this happens even in female oriented careers like nursing and teaching. For example, the average weekly salary for waiting tables is $466 for men and only $389 for women. Male financial managers make on average of $1504 per week while female financial managers make only $991. This has got to change, and the power lies in our hands.
What You Can Do: Let the law help you. One of President Obama’s first acts as president was to sign the Fair Pay Act. He made it illegal to pay men and women different salaries if they are doing the same job. If you suspect your male colleagues are getting paid more than you, follow up with your superiors and calmly present your concerns in accordance with the Fair Pay Act’s guidelines. Fair Pay Act Information
3. Getting a Great Mentor
Having a career mentor can be crucial to advancing in your job track. Research shows that while women are getting equal opportunities to get mentors, the quality of the mentorship is not the same. The World Economic Forum reported that 59% of companies offer mentoring programs, and 28% even have women-specific programs. However, researchers Nancy M. Carter and Christine Silva discovered that despite these women-centered mentoring programs, females were not benefitting as much as men.
What You Can Do: Carter and Silva discovered that men were getting special mentorships called ‘sponsorships.’ Sponsor mentors give more than just advice and actually use their influence with upper management to push for their mentee. Women are being over-mentored and under-sponsored. Make sure that first, you are taking advantage of and requesting mentor programs in your workplace. Second, ask for sponsorships. Many women simply do not know the difference. Now you are empowered to ask for what you deserve.
4. Landing a Great First Job
If you want career success, you have to start on the right foot. A study by Ernst & Young that tracked more than 4,100 MBA students found that even after adjusting for industry, children and region, men start their careers at higher levels than women. Starting in lower positions makes it even harder for women to catch up later.
What You Can Do: Whether you are in school or thinking of switching careers, you can start working now to get a great first job. Networking is one of the leading ways to get good job placement. Go to professional networking groups in the area you know you will be looking for a job, join industry specific groups on LinkedIn, attend lectures on career topics you are interested in. These are the perfect ways to let people know you want to land a great first gig.
5. Loving Your Job
People who love what they do, do better. Yet, research performed by Catalyst Group of 4,000 full-time-employed men and women from 1996 to 2007 proved that women have significantly less career satisfaction than their male counterparts with the same level of education. If we don’t enjoy our work, how can we continue to climb the ladder successfully?
What You Can Do: Get in touch with your passion. Many women simply do not know what they love. Decide to ‘work consciously.’ Identify the aspects of your job you do and do not like. Often times, it is not your entire job that you are not satisfied with, but parts of it. As you figure out the pros and cons of your workday, talk to higher-ups during quarterly reviews and ask how you can grow into a job you love. Suggest projects and job responsibilities that you would like to work on, even if it means a little more effort right now. This will show your bosses new areas you can work on and that you have initiative.
6. Getting Promoted
Women get promoted less often than men. This simple fact has a complicated explanation. Experts have conjectured that women are undervalued or that they have worse opportunities. But the biggest reason women get promoted less is because they have a much harder time negotiating for a promotion. According to research, even when we do ask, when given similar opportunities, women still get on average worse negotiated outcomes than men.
What You Can Do: Horacio Falcao, a Professor of Decision Sciences says that women’s negotiation weaknesses are not genetic—they are learned gender behaviors that can be overcome. Women have been taught that complaining or asking for more than offered is aggressive, unattractive and ‘bad behavior.’ Therefore, they often do not negotiate for promotions. Knowing these gender behaviors, we must take steps to overcome them. First, women can ask for back up. If you know you have trouble negotiating for promotions, use a headhunter or mentor who can negotiate for you. Second, do your research. Ask trusted colleagues and use websites like PayScale.com or Salary.com to find out salaries, job experience and managerial levels in your industry to make sure you are being treated fairly.
Women can take steps to overcome gender bias, love what they do and be successful in their careers. It might take a little more work—but as they say, the more you effort you put into something the more you appreciate it.
Men’s and Women’s Earnings for States and Metropolitan Statistical. September 2010. American Community Survey Briefs By David M. Getz
Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2009. By U.S. Department of Labor U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. June 2010. Report 1025.
Why Men Still Get More Promotions Than Women
by Herminia Ibarra, Nancy M. Carter, and Christine Silva
Women in Management: Delusions of Progress
By Nancy M. Carter and Christine Silva
Negotiation: Are Women Bad At It?
By Horacio FALCAO, Affiliate Professor of Decision Sciences
Women on Boards: Review & Outlook
Posted by Noam Noked, co-editor, HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, on Saturday June 2, 2012