Do we believe “the promotion gap and the “only”​ experience combine to form a grim picture of women’s progress at work?”​

I have a confession to make. I had a hard time reading ‘Lean In’. I couldn’t finish the book. I wanted to understand that book so badly. It was missing something but I couldn’t quite put a finger on it at that time. 

I recently read this article on CNN. –

“We see the representation of women at the lower manager level getting stuck at around 38% year after year,” she said. “That’s not normal. We know if promotions and hiring were fair overall, we’d see a jump of about seven percentage points in five years in that manager representation. But it’s been the same number for the last five years.”

Why are we so surprised by this? If we really dig deeper into the problem and ask why – do you think we will find that there is more to this than what meets the eye? Getting promoted is one thing but what we really need to ask is – Why are women underrepresented in the workforce? 

If women are not in the workforce, then where are they and what are they doing? I can share with you my insights having been on both sides. I am framing them as questions because my insights are not backed by research, therefore, I am hesitant to frame them as statements. I want to preface this by saying that a lot of these apply to men and women even though the context here is women in the workforce. 

1. Are women leaving the workforce because they aspire to do meaningful work and not just climb the corporate ladder? Is a promotion (title, money, power) the key motivator?  

2. Do women in the corporate setting help other women succeed? Do we pull each other up instead of viewing each other as threats? Are you the “only” because you haven’t taken other women along with you?

3. Is exiting the workforce our way of rejecting the status quo? Is it because we aspire to apply our energy, our intellect in areas that matter? I have met so many talented women who are doing amazing things with their time. They may not be raising money to run companies and ringing the bell on Wall Street but they are raising funds for local schools, creating amazing programs that nurture young minds, helping where help is needed. 

4. Is the hiring process today flawed?

5. Is the definition of work and success one dimensional? 

6. Why do we care so much about promotions and getting into the c-suite?

7. Are women perceived as less ambitious if they don’t want to pursue a certain path or if they want to go home at a decent hour to spend time doing things outside of work? 

8. Dare I ask the question – Are women penalized for not making work their #1 priority?

8. Do corporate jobs really help you realize your full potential?

If we want more women represented in the workforce, we need to explore these questions, keep the dialogue going, bring men and women to the table to go deeper into the why. We need to take the time to understand the problem. We need leaders in positions of power to listen to what women want and give them interesting challenges to work on and not just jobs.

I left the workforce a few times in the last 3 years. Not because I wanted to raise my children but because life put me in a situation where I was forced to rethink what my priorities are. I have been back in the workforce but on my terms. It took several years of agony to get this level of clarity but here is where I have landed – 

1.  Always pursue interesting challenges vs titles

2.  Always be learning vs be a know it all 

3.  Always be your #1 priority vs making work your #1 priority 

4.  Always do what you love vs dragging your feet doing stuff you don’t 

5.  Always work with kind people vs jerks

6.  Always be authentic vs pretend to be someone you are not. 

I have been consulting for the last 2 years. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. I have worked with some amazing companies, with talented people and on projects that have stretched me beyond my comfort zone. Professionally I have grown significantly more than the growth I would have experienced in a full-time role. 

If you are a woman who enjoys her work and finds it fulfilling, please tell us how you got there and how you can help other women get there?

If you are a woman who left the workforce and doesn’t plan to go back, tell us why and what would change your mind?

If you are a woman who is in a position of leadership please tell us about the view from the top on this. What are the challenges you face and what can you do to help?

If you are a man reading this and you have stayed with me so far, I thank you! Share with us your perspective of your own view of work, promotions, your observations of what women can do better or stop doing entirely.

I am sharing this because the clarity came after much excruciating soul searching. I hope that this sparks dialogue on what really matters to women instead of focusing on why women aren’t getting promoted. 

From where I am standing, whether you are in the workforce or not, women are kicking butt doing their thing – 

We are raising kids…the future is in our hands

We are working multiple jobs to pay for college 

We are running successful small businesses

We are fostering programs for our local schools 

We are coaching kids sports teams 

We are running sports and after-school programs because schools don’t have funding for them 

We are educating people 

We are feeding people 

We are GETTING IT DONE without the expectation of rewards, appreciation or acceptance! 

Some days I wonder, as women, are we exactly where we need to be?Report this