For all the talk of equality in the workplace, especially now that millennials are rapidly becoming the major career-employed group, there are some things that die hard. And among those things are deep-seated and often unconscious stereotypes about career women and their relative strengths when compared to men.
A recent study by Catalyst, titled, ”Women Take Care; Men Take Charge,” summarized these and the negative results for females as they try to climb the career ladder. Of note was the statistic that, while more than half of women make up managerial positions, only 2% make it to the board rooms of both Fortune 500 and fortune 1000 firms.
So, Just What are These Lingering Stereotypes?
Here are several of the “die-hards” that are still impacting women in their careers.
1. Women are Not as Good as Men at Problem-Solving
This is a key leadership skill. Interestingly, every MBA program in the world requires coursework in this critical area, and everyone is taught and practices any number of problem-solving processes. Both men and women are thus equally prepared for problem-solving activities, and yet men are seen as superior. A couple of sub-stereotypes seem to account for this – beliefs that women are more emotional and that they have difficulty delegating.
2. Women are Not as Serious About Their Careers
It is assumed that women will be the primary care providers for their children. With that assumption comes additional ones that they will be willing to take leaves of absence, quit, or downshift when the “going gets tough.” Here’s a news flash: 43% of Gen X women don’t even have kids, and the percentage will be even higher for millennials. Further, parenting roles are increasingly blurred today, precisely because women are more serious about their careers.
3. Women are More Risk-Averse
High level executive positions require risk-taking, especially when key decisions must be made about finances, mergers and acquisitions, etc. It is assumed that men are more willing to take the risks that will catapult an enterprise forward. The correlating assumption is that women would rather take the safer route even if it means less growth and revenue.
4. Women Have Character Traits that Make Them Less Desirable Leaders
Here is how a few of these “traits” are described by gender:
• Men are assertive; women are aggressive
• Men are forceful; women are bitchy
• Men are strong leaders; women are bossy
• Men have confidence and strength of their convictions; women are domineering and selfish
5. Appearance Equates to Capability and Commitment
If executive men are clean; if their clothes are clean and pressed; and if they wear deodorant, then they are “good to go.” As they age, they may lose some hair, develop a mid-section pouch, etc., and they are still “good to go.” A woman on the other hand must be far more careful. She has greater responsibility for a good personal appearance. Otherwise she will be characterized as “letting herself go,” with a negative connotation that she is less caring about everything, including her work responsibilities.
Perhaps the worst part of this stereotype is that women come to accept it themselves. Media, of course, is partially to blame. One of the net effects of this, moreover, is the fact that plastic surgeons’ offices are far more filled with female than male patients.
Learning to Ignore the Stereotypes (But Working Within Them Too)
There is nothing that career women can do to change the “inbred” thinking that has created these stereotypes. Thankfully, time will take care of some of them, as the “older boys’ clubs” move into retirement and new generations take the helm. In the meantime, however, there are things to do:
1. Craft Exceptional Resumes and Other Applicant Documents
Women must understand that they will be competing with many men for managerial and executive positions. Their documents must literally “knock the socks off” of employment decision-makers. For this reason, it makes good sense to get academic help within the niche/sector to provide professional assistance when crafting a resumes and cover letter. If you feel a lack of knowledge about this stuff, you can get some help from myessayslab.
2. Take Initiative in the Workplace
You may not be given the same opportunities as your male counterparts in the workplace. Seek out those opportunities on your own. If you know of a challenge the organization is facing, spend some of your own non-work time working on optional solutions that should be considered. Present them when you feel the tie is appropriate.
3. Network, Network, Network
This cannot be stressed enough. Make connections with those in your sector outside of your organization. Get a name for yourself; become an influencer. This takes time, and it does seem a bit unfair, when your male counterparts are at home or at the sports bar watching their favorite events.
It won’t always be this way. The stereotypes are peeling away. What you do now blazes the path for women who come after you – remember that.