Last week we discussed how women have a very different experience than men as they progress at their company, particularly after they hit the two years mark. What happens after two year? Women’s aspirations and confidence drop significantly. This drop is much higher than that experienced by men, and the gap between men and women continues even into senior levels of management. This is a complex situation with a number of factors, but the most influential drivers are the lack of career support from existing managers, the male stereotypes for success present in many organizations, and the lack of self-promotion needed to ‘get ahead’ which is counter intuitive for many women.
What does this mean for your business?
Are about half of your employees women? If so, and you have this gender gap in your organization, you are missing out on getting the most from your female employees. If their confidence and aspirations drop significantly after two years, you aren’t going to reap the rewards from their full potential. Are they going to grow and develop their capabilities to the degree of their male counterparts? Of course not! And that can only hurt your bottom line.
What you, the leader or manager, can do
You need to determine if this is an issue that stands in the way of your success. If you want to get the most from everyone on your team, you need to truly determine if you are getting the most from everyone on your team currently. The following are steps to start the process:
- Your numbers tell your story. How diverse is your workforce in terms of not just gender, but also race, ethnicity, age and other demographics? How do those numbers change as you look at your managers at different levels?
- What do your customers look like, and how will they change over the next 5 to 10 years? If your employees and managers don’t look like your customers, you are at high risk of creating a chasm between you and your customers.
- Assess your culture by asking what is valued and rewarded by your organization? Who is promoted and why are they promoted?
- If your culture values and rewards behaviors that tend to promote men, are you willing and able to challenge and change that culture? This is a key decision that has implications for the 2-5 years needed to effectively implement a culture change. This is not an ‘initiative of the year’ project.
- If your answer to the above question is ‘yes’, you should consider implementing a talent management process that systematically develops your future talent pipeline, including women and others who have upside potential and can drive your success.
- To support women right now in your company, reach out to them and ask them about their experience working on your team. Ask how you can support them. Maybe establish a defined mentorship program, or even mentoring circles, where they can receive support to get beyond the ‘honeymoon’ phase with your organization.
What women can do early in their careers
This gender gap is not just an issue for the leader or manager. If you are a professional woman, and you see these statistics affecting you as you build your career, I do have advice for you:
- First, do your homework as you consider the companies you may want to work for. Even before you start interviewing, identify those companies who have a culture that really supports women in their careers. In many companies, the real culture is not consistent with the ‘values’ listed on the website. The proof is in the pudding. What are their numbers? What programs do they have in place to support women and diversity overall?
- Know yourself and how your personality will impact your fit in different roles. If you aspire to be in a leadership position, but you tend to be introverted, how will that impact your ability to get promotions? This is important as you choose your next manager, management team, and company.
- Seek out those who have been successful in your field or company. What have they done to succeed? What advice do they have? Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask them.
- Stand up for yourself. It’s hard for many women to ask for that high visibility project, that promotion, that raise. Most of your male counterparts don’t have your reservations. What can you do to prepare for those conversations?
What parents can do
As I mentioned, this conversation stemmed from my daughter’s recent high school graduation. My daughter is 18, and she doesn’t always want to hear my advice. If you are a parent of a teen, you may resonate with that. I am hoping that, when she is closer to graduating from college, she will be more open to my advice. But, I do find that she is very attentive to those who are just a bit older than she is. So, what I do now, and will continue to do, is encourage her to find others who are good role models in her areas of interest, and ask them about their experiences.
Continue to encourage your daughters to learn from others so that she can benefit from their experiences.