by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
Our article, Women Are the New Men: Reviewing and Leveraging Women’s Bold New World of Work listed five trends that are reshaping opportunities for women in the workplace. This companion article suggests ways that established women can make the most of these trends:
Seek out companies that develop women. A report called Holding Women Back: Troubling Discoveries and Best Practices for Helping Female Leaders Succeed [PDF download] reveals that female leaders are under-represented in accelerated development programs early in their careers, which hinders their climb up the ladder. Further, because many of the accelerated programs (such as high-potential programs and one-on-one mentorship) are secret or happen behind closed doors, organizations aren’t held accountable for gender balance, the report by Development Dimensions International (DDI) notes. Although the report paints a gloomy picture of insufficient programs for developing women, it suggests that when companies develop women, those women can rise to higher levels of leadership. The report advises women to make their intentions known; tell management you plan to move up and do not intend for family obligations to hold you back. The report also suggests staying positive and learning how people advance in the organization so you can do the same.
Consider international opportunities. The Holding Women Back report recommends international experience for women, who are often overlooked for international assignments because management assumes a woman’s family obligations won’t accommodate work abroad. The report notes that more than twice as many men as women surveyed were in positions with a multinational scope and that such experience can be important for leadership development. And keep in mind that not all positions with multinational scope require actual relocation abroad. See our Job and Career Resources for Global Job-Seekers.
Become a top-notch negotiator and salary strategist. Negotiation in general, and specifically relating to salary, is often a weak spot for women. Lee Miller, author of A Woman’s Guide to Successful Negotiating, advises women that it’s not only OK to negotiate but expected and that they should make negotiating a part of the way they conduct their lives. He recommends that women seek opportunities to practice negotiating, particularly outside the employment context.
In a workforce in which a gender pay gap persists, women need to invest significant effort into attaining the salaries they deserve. Miller notes that women’s tendency to value relationships means that they are less likely to change jobs than men are, and it’s often in changing jobs that workers attain higher salaries. Women are often afraid to ask for a raise, Miller says, because they fear damaging their relationship with their boss or company.
In Salary Facts Handbook, the book’s editors and compilers at JIST publishing, who compiled the book, share several strategies women can use to maximize their chances of receiving a fair wage. They suggest that women:
- Do some research to learn about occupations that have a better ratio of female-to-male wages.
- Seek jobs within organizations that have programs in place to recruit women for positions where they have been underrepresented.
- Be on the lookout for a manager who is a determined and inspiring mentor. Such a manager can accomplish as much for a woman’s career as a formal program might.
- Speak with other women who currently work for a targeted employer.
- Remember to consider the availability of female-friendly benefits, such as paid maternity l eave.
See also our Salary Negotiation and Job Offer Tools and Resources.
Network. Networking is not only the most effective way to get a job, but one of the best ways to get noticed and promoted at a current job. It’s also especially valuable for women. Networking opportunities are increasing all the time. One venue for established career women that has earned significant buzz in recent years is 85 Broads, described as “an exclusive global women’s network with members who live, work, and study in 82 countries around the world.” The paid organization boasts 25,000 members.
A resource that is directed at employers contains many good ideas for networking venues for women. 100 Resources to Attract, Retain and Leverage Talented Women lists 21 professional organizations and online venues where women network. While the balance of the 100 resources is directed at employers, many of the articles are valuable for providing the employer’s perspective on hiring women. Finally, check out Quint Careers’s own collection of Women’s Career Networking and Professional Associations.
Get a mentor, or better yet, a sponsor. Mentors have long been seen as a particular boon to women’s career prospects (Learn more.), and now economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett takes the mentor concept a step further. Hewlett, founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy, writes:
To successfully make [the leap to the next professional level] requires something more specific: a sponsor. More than a mentor, this is someone in a senior position who’s willing to advocate for and facilitate career moves, make introductions to the right people, translate and teach the secret language of success, and most important, ‘use up chips’ for their proteges. One woman describes a sponsor as someone who can ‘directly intercede on your behalf to create a different reality for you.’
At this “turning point” time for women in the workforce, it’s not too late for established career women to soar professionally. We may just be on the precipice of a golden age for women in the workplace.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.