Women Are Responsible For Inequalities in the Workplace
It’s not news that women tend to hit glass ceilings in the workplace far sooner than men do. It’s also not news that women tend to earn less money than their male counterparts in exactly the same positions.
Is it possible though, women are actually partially responsible for these inequalities? Recent studies say yes.
U.S. behavioral scientist and author Shannon L. Goodson has studied and compared tens of thousands of men and women from 34 different countries to figure out what is going on. She discovered that women are less likely to project themselves professionally (regardless of country or culture).
Upon first blush, this shouldn’t be so bad; aren’t we taught that modesty is more attractive than blatant egotism? Isn’t it unladylike to be too forward?
But when we live in a world where (as Goodson confirmed) self-promotion is key to getting bigger salaries and better positions, it seems that feminine modesty is simply detrimental.
Here are some ways you can start to actively promote yourself without being looked upon as the “office bitch”:
- Draw attention to your contributions, especially if they go above and beyond the original task assigned.
- If you are proud of something you believe you do well, make sure the right people know about it. If they know that you enjoy a particular task or have a knack with it, you may find your job shifting to encompass more of it, utilizing your talents better and giving you more job satisfaction.
- Participate in social and professional networking events, and be sure to mingle.
- If a task takes you less than the allotted time, be sure to bring it to your boss’s attention.
- Make suggestions for how your skills might be better utilized if you feel you aren’t working up to your capabilities. Warning: don’t let your boss pile more work on…indicate that these suggestions are for future improvement of the company, and that these responsibilities warrant a new position or restructuring of your current position.
- Ask for a raise if you feel you deserve it! The worst anybody can say is “no”.
Goodson’s studies reveal another possibly scarier fact: female managers are not as supportive and encouraging of other women as you may think. Those women who have made a leap to management and are on the fast track may actually sabotage the careers of other women under them. So if you are an employee working underneath one of these managers, be sure not to look to them for that maternal encouragement you may expect – in fact, watching your back may be sadly necessary. I have personal experience in this area; by expecting the woman across the desk from me to be kind and nurturing, I have botched interviews, become agitated in meetings, and even been bitten by office politics in unlikely ways.
In many cases you can overcome workplace inequalities without having to change your behavior. Instead, a simple shift in attitude will do:
- Don’t expend energy worrying about outcomes…focus on the job, and show off the results in the end.
- Eliminate stage fright from your vocabulary. Join Toastmasters if you need to become more comfortable presenting in front of groups - it's fun and incredibly helpful. (And it's more of that social networking I was talking about - you just may meet your next manager there).
- Don’t worry about being “intrusive” in opening up lines of communication with others (especially managers higher than you).
- Don’t be intimidated. Women are more likely than men to be intimidated by wealthy people, and those in powerful positions. Remember – they are just people too.
In this day and age, hard work alone is not enough to succeed and flourish in the workplace. Don’t be a martyr – get out there and self-promote! Only you can be your biggest cheerleader – nobody else will do it for you.