“I know there are voices that tell you that you’re not good enough, that you have to look a certain way, act a certain way; that if you speak up, you’re too loud; if you step up to lead, you’re being bossy.” – Michelle Obama
Every ambitious woman alive has had to claw and scratch their way for a seat at the table at some point in their career. It can be trying at times constantly having to advocate for your worth and the unique talents you bring to your company. Women often take on a tremendous amount of extra responsibilities for little to no reward unless they happen to be a C-Suite executive.
Let’s take a look at a recent study that goes into the gendered struggles women often face at work and how we can speak up and advance in our careers based on merit alone. Some microaggressions have become even more unbearable in lockdown.
Blindspots to work on for women to gain equal opportunity in the workforce
Advancing in your career should be based on how well you do your job alone but this isn’t always the case. Women are immediately put at a disadvantage with the continued existence of the gender pay gap that lies at a staggering 82 cents for every dollar a male coworker makes. This is unacceptable in the year 2020 and one way to approach this disparity in compensation is to simply speak up. Addressing the problem is half the battle according to an author from this study. Over 44% of women who spoke up said it was a positive experience.
“Speaking up needn’t be a negative experience – in fact, the majority of women who spoke up about the gender pay gap told us it was an overall positive experience. Only 16% said their experience was negative or extremely negative, and one-quarter of women felt neutral about the experience. So don’t listen to the friends and colleagues who warn you against saying anything (13% of women cited this as the reason they hadn’t spoken up).”
Those women who didn’t speak up, over 52% of them, said it was because they were afraid they would face retaliation at work. It should be the company’s responsibility to diminish this pay gap or disclose it for transparency and come up with a plan to work towards a more equitable future for all employees working for the company–regardless of gender.
One other disadvantage women face at work is being denied raises. According to research over ⅔ of women who ask for raises in a reasonable manner usually get turned down. This results in women’s salaries peaking 10 years earlier than men’s salaries at about $34,000K less a year.
Why don’t women get those raises they ask for? Compared to men, women struggle to highlight their strengths and tend to be harder on themselves when it comes to annual performance review time. This is a crucial time to highlight your strengths and really sell yourself and the value you bring to the company if you want to be paid what you’re worth! This coupled with the gender pay gap really puts women behind men when working towards growing their assets.
“Governments and experts are increasingly encouraging companies to disclose their wage data. Research by Cornell University found that simple disclosure can shrink the gender pay gap by 7%.”
New information released in a survey by co-founders of Chief unearthed some disheartening statistics outlining the specific struggles women have faced during this pandemic. Lindsay Kaplan & Carolyn Childers report their findings after asking 300 women about work-life post-pandemic.
During the coronavirus crisis women in managerial roles have reported feeling overwhelmed and taking on more responsibilities when co-workers fall short. Over 70% of high-powered women executives took on more roles and professional responsibility since the start of the pandemic. With added responsibilities, 45% have struggled with the extra workload while attempting to manage their team with grace during a sensitive time. When asked if they speak up about these issues publicly at work 42% do not for fear of coming off as vulnerable and potentially being admonished for not taking on extra responsibilities with a smile.
Taking on so much extra work with little given back as a reward in return can be frustrating and the reason why 25% of women said they were most likely leaving their current roles and becoming their own bosses. Men have far more access to workplace benefits, (85% compared to 75% of women), and one particular benefit not readily available to women hurts them more than others and that is the lack of proper maternal leave or perks that aid in paying for childcare. Many working mothers are forced to choose between motherhood and a career and this could be remedied simply by including childcare expenses in the company budget.
The study mentioned earlier goes into how much the lack of childcare services stagnates a woman’s opportunities for career advancement and financial solvency.
“The biggest divide was in the availability of company-sponsored child care. Only 19% of men said they didn’t have access to this perk, while one-third of women were not given it. This can leave women in a tight spot: Either they pay for child care out of pocket, something which can cost more than in-state college tuition, or they may have to reduce their hours or leave the workforce all together to care for their children themselves. Both of these options can leave women disadvantaged in terms of career and income. Many women who leave the workforce to raise children lose the income and retirement savings opportunities they would have had if they’d stayed. And upon returning, they face even more obstacles to career advancement.”
Women are often thrust into caregiving roles and when they are expected to be called upon to be a perfect mother and shining employee it becomes increasingly difficult to shine it on and pretend like our time and dedication is valued when it’s not represented in our paychecks or company benefits.
How do we take the power back?
Ways women can advocate for themselves in their career
Several women tired of the glass ceilings they have to break to get promoted into leadership roles decided to drop their careers and forge their own enterprises. Apparently the past 20 years women-owned businesses have grown exponentially at a rate of about 849 new businesses a day. Many women decided to work for themselves and take on another female mentor to help them start their own business. I love women empowering women! A large number of women entrepreneurs, 75% of them in fact, have reported being extremely satisfied reporting to themselves instead of a CEO that doesn’t facilitate or meet their needs. Half of the respondents to the survey said they started their new business after COVID-19 slowed everything down.
If you’re feeling frustrated or undervalued at work one way to take control of your financial future is to come up with a unique budget and investment plan that caters to your specific needs. Financial advisors are always on ready to aid you in being smarter with the leftover money you do have after dealing with expenses. It’s possible to get to where you want to be without relying on gatekeepers to reach your financial and career goals.
Financial advisor Ruzwana Bashir, CEO and founder of Peek.com was interviewed recently by researchers at Personal Capital. She advises women in the workforce to do the following.
“Financial empowerment is having a trajectory, a plan that will get you where you want to be in the future. As opposed to something that you feel you can’t control or that’s overwhelming, it becomes one of the goals that you work toward.”
Start planning for retirement, invest in stocks, be aware of unnecessary expenses, and stick to a monthly budget to watch your finances soar all on your own.
I know it seems like all the forces of gender bias are stacked against us but the most important thing you can do if you’re feeling discriminated against at work is to speak up and demand respect. If you’re dealing with microaggressions at work or folks asking you to take on other responsibilities not part of your job description or above your pay grade it is ok to say no. Worse comes to worst if your current boss isn’t forthright with offering the pay and benefits rightfully allotted to you for all your hard work don’t get frustrated just start your own company! Once you start demanding what you’re worth and going for things you once thought out of reach you could surprise yourself with everything you’re capable of.