It is an important time to celebrate the advancement of women. We have made visible progress in the last few decades. The number of female entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders in corporate leadership roles is growing. However, there are still many challenges women face that are different from their male counterparts. Women sometimes have beliefs or career myths that may interfere with their career satisfaction and success.
A global survey, interviews, and focus groups of over 200 women in leadership and professional roles were conducted. The women who participated in the research selected these career myths as the top 5 impacting their satisfaction and career success.
- Women can expect to be compensated fairly and rewarded for their contributions in the workplace. While negotiation skills can be learned, research studies suggest this issue is much more complicated than mastering the art of the “ask” alone. Even women business owners pay themselves less compared to men. It means women must understand the unique value their talent brings to an organization and how their work contributes to achieving business goals. Other factors such as career interruptions to care for family or the choices women make about the role or industries they work in having an influence on overall earnings. Women must be skilled, encouraged, and empowered to correct this gender disparity over time.
- Women’s skills and experience matter more than their communication style and appearance. Women may be perceived as less competent based on their physical appearance alone. A study by Pew Research confirms that Americans rate physical attractiveness as the most valuable trait for women followed by empathy, nurturing and kindness. Professional success is a more desirable quality for men. Another study found a direct correlation between height and potential income. This calls for open conversations about presence, body language, communication, and social image during development planning discussions. Focusing only on the skills and knowledge required for attaining a new role may not be enough to overcome this bias.
- If women are assertive and drive for results, it will benefit their career. Women who demonstrate strength and assertiveness are often judged negatively. Women must carefully strike a balance between the focus on results and relationships to move forward in a career. Research shows women who simply aren’t liked will experience career challenges. However, this does not hold true for men. The MacMillan Dictionary defines “career woman” as something many people view as a bad thing. We have not yet overcome the social expectation that women are the primary caregivers in the family and that a successful career may be viewed as a distraction.
- Advancement for women is only dependent on performing well. There are many reasons that women may not advance even when they have the knowledge skills, and experience to perform a job. Studies have shown that women are rated as more effective leaders than men, yet women are still underrepresented in top corporate leadership positions. Another study found patients treated by a female surgeon were less likely to die, compared to those operated on by a male. Perhaps only the best physicians become surgeons, or the women were held to a higher standard. Women need to be aware, informed, and coached to overcome barriers. Leaders need to ensure that workload distribution and performance measures are consistently fair across all team members.
- Men and women believe in equality for women. While many men and women support the advancement of women in the workplace, both men and women have unconscious biases. We are all guilty. We must all increase our self-awareness. We can only overcome unintentional discriminatory behaviors when we know of them and take action.
Order the book based on input and advice gathered from of over 200 women across the globe. Then read, reflect and discuss each chapter with the men and women in your life.
Although women seem to agree that these myths exist, until now, there have been few development resources dedicated to overcoming them. What advice, tips, or suggestions do have for helping women overcome these challenges in the decades ahead? Your commitment to helping women advance is appreciated.
Senior Leadership Consultant, EDA, Inc.
Saundra Stroope is a Senior Leadership Consultant at EDA with over 20 years of human capital experience within a variety of industries at award winning, global and Fortune 500 companies. She is the author of over a dozen works, including a chapter in a book on developing high potential emerging leaders in Integrated Talent Management Scorecards by ASTD Press. Her expertise includes leadership development, succession planning, culture change, organizational development, career development, team development, curriculum design, facilitation, human resources, and coaching individuals at all leadership levels. She has a long track record of leading and measuring the success of talent development initiatives. Saundra’s passion for development, drive for results, business acumen, and many years of human capital experience, allow her to bring creative ideas and practical talent solutions to organizations.
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