Career Strategies for Women
You’re a smart woman. You’ve acquired your top quality education, gained some valuable work experience, and have a multitude of skills to offer the corporate world. You interview well, have a professional appearance, and rival some of the best managers in the industry. Yet, time and time again, you are either passed over for employment opportunities or underpaid. What gives?
Many would contend that it’s a man’s world out there. Despite the fact that women have come a long way in the corporate world, they still only represent only 13.6 percent of corporate board members. And, even they the Equal Pay Act was passed more than 40 years ago, women still only make 46 cents for every dollar that a man makes.
Obviously, the corporate world is one that favors men—both financially and socially. However, women need not give up. There are specific strategies that, when implemented, can help women gain leverage in the corporate world.
1. Educate Yourself
Without a doubt, education is the most affective tool in your arsenal. While it used to be that a majority of degrees were awarded to men, this trend has shifted. Today, a majority of the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees are awarded to women.
What does this mean? It means that, while the corporate gap may still be wide open, the education gap has closed. Women are now becoming more prepared than their male counterparts to actually perform in the corporate world.
But don’t become complacent. Do you have a bachelor’s degree? Think about getting a master’s. The higher you’re education, the more marketable you will be, and the more earning power you will have.
2. Network, Network, Network!
Every heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know?” Well, all good sayings are rooted in some kind of truth, and this one is no different. Don’t be afraid to join professional organizations. If you’re an engineer, find a local professional organization comprised of engineers. Finding other professionals in your field will not only provide you with cutting-edge information, but can offer you insight into upcoming job opportunities and promotions.
If you like, you can also join a variety of women’s professional organizations. Through groups such as these, you can network with other women—women who understand what it takes to move upward in the corporate world. Some examples of professional women’s organizations are:
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
1111 16th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone: (202) 785-7700
FAX: (202) 872-1425
American Bar Association
750 N Lakeshore Dr
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: (312) 988-5497
The American College of Nurse Midwives
1522 K St, NW – Suite 1000 Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 289-0171
American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA)
801 North Fairfax Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 838-0500
FAX: (703) 549-3864
American Nurse’s Association (ANA)
600 Maryland Ave. SW, Suite 100 West
Washington, D.C. 20024
Phone: (202) 554-4444
FAX: (202) 554-2262
American Women in Radio and Television
1101 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. Suite 100 Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone: (202) 429-5102
FAX: (202) 223-4579
While networking through professional organizations is helpful, don’t forget your co-workers. Making and maintaining healthy working relationships in work and play help ensure that your name is not forgotten when promotion time comes. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself! Invite colleagues to lunch, offer others the opportunity to brainstorm with you on tasks, or just ask for advice from more knowledgeable employees. Not only will you make important contacts, but you will also gain a reputation for being an amicable employee.
3. Use Your Attributes to Your Advantage
Face facts. Women are talkers. And women are known for their unique ability to build interpersonal relationships through talking and listening. Don’t be afraid to embrace your femininity. Instead, use it to your advantage. With team-based projects and direct customer contact being important to business, good interpersonal skills are not just a plus—they are a must. Honing your natural communication skills will only improve your leverage in the corporate world.
4. Tackle Tough Jobs
Assuming tough jobs that push your talents and skills can get you noticed. Don’t be afraid to take on tasks that are outside of your comfort range. Doing so will show that you are willing to take challenges, and that you are capable of meeting tough demands. Do be careful, however, not to take on a task that is completely out of your range of expertise. While successfully completing a difficult project could benefit you, failing to do so could damage your career, as well.
5. Make a Plan
Face it; life can often ruin the best of plans. Marriage, babies, and even continuing education can slow down or dramatically change your career. Making and following a plan helps you maintain your focus and pace. However, it’s not enough to just randomly jot down dreams and aspirations. Be specific.
First, sit down and document your career goals. Start with short-term goals. For example, you may decide to acquire ten new sales leads in the next month. Move on to long-range goals, starting at the one-year mark. Decide where you want to be one, five, and ten years from now. As you do this, also plan for life-altering events. Planning on having a baby? Build that into your plan. Remember, you can’t work towards goals if you don’t know what they are.
6. Be Choosy
It sounds impossible in this day and age, but there still are companies that blatantly ignore the immense talents of women. Don’t take any job that comes along. Research prospective employers to determine which are likely to give you the best opportunities. Maternity leave, insurance programs, and the advancement of female employees are all reasonable things to investigate. Don’t be afraid to pass up a higher-paying job with a less woman-friendly company for one that fosters the development of women’s careers. In the long run, working for a company that treats women fairly will pay off.
While some sadder aspects of the corporate world—pay inequity, advancement opportunities—still tend to favor men, women have the ability and skills to advance their careers in way their mothers never thought possible. It may be a man’s world, but women—with a little information and a few strategies—are rapidly becoming part of it.