The concept of advancing women in the workplace is not new. Women have been doing their part for decades: they’ve been earning more bachelor’s degrees than men, asking for promotions, negotiating for more money and they remain in the workforce at the same rate as men.
As someone who has been in the workforce 30 years and has a daughter in middle school, there is an opportunity in front of us to change the landscape so we aren’t reading articles about this topic in 10 years from now.
Advancement is different for women
The reality of the modern work environment is that the path of advancement for women is more challenging than it is for men. One area we can explore is how differently women and men approach applying for new positions.
Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.1 Many believe this is tied to a women’s lack of confidence in their skills versus women’s approach to following the rules outlined.
This likely stems from socialized gender roles and cultural expectations. These gendered behaviors are reinforced from an early age at home, school, and in the media and female stereotypes can be detrimental when women enter the workforce and compete with men who didn’t share that gender conditioning.
If women and men generally take different approaches to following guidelines, they may approach the hiring process differently. Women believe the requirements are indeed required and want to avoid wasting their time on the process or experiencing the failure of not getting the job; therefore, women simply do not apply if they don’t meet requirements. Men, on the other hand, may be more inclined to view the hiring process as one where relationships and advocating for themselves can overcome missing qualifications.
Women and managers can reduce these imbalances by talking about them. If women realize that others apply for jobs without meeting all of the qualifications, they can be empowered to take the same approach. If women learn about an opportunity they are excited about, they should apply. Use their networks of advocacy, sponsorship, relationships and framing one’s expertise to help support them in the process.
Male leaders: The majority needs to speak up for the minority
The onus should not be on the minority to educate and affect change within the majority. Power and influence in corporate America sits with the majority. There is no roadmap to providing meaningful advancement for women and we must work together to close the opportunity gap between men and women.
I’ve worked with male senior leaders who “get it” and advocate for those not in the room. It starts with male leaders setting the tone by becoming vocal and unapologetic about promoting and advocating diversity and inclusion in their work place. I invite male leaders to talk openly about micro-inequities that women experience and ask women leaders how they would like to be authentically supported. This may include bringing women into leader meetings and including them onstage for roles at meetings or presentations.
Organizations: An opportunity for change
From an organizational and leadership standpoint, it is not only imperative to believe that advancing women is a priority for business, it must make a commitment to evolve. We can acknowledge the differences in men’s and women’s professional approaches, and create standards that are inclusive of both.
We can be unapologetic in addressing progress – or the lack of it. It raises awareness to point out, “Are we having this conversation again?” If it doesn’t matter, let’s stop talking about it. If it does, let’s hold people accountable so we aren’t revisiting this very topic in the future.
1source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2014/09/11/are-women-too-timid-when-they-job-search/#69e0c2e0411d links to a HBR article that sources it to an internal Hewlett Packard report)