The value of gender diversity for a business’ bottom line has been widely recognized, but according to a report by the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University, this has not done much to improve the conditions of women in the workplace. The report is a result of over 185 studies to properly evaluate the state of women in the corporate world.
The report explores the reality of the “leaky corporate pipeline”, a term that refers to the way women drop out or disappear from the career and leadership trajectory at all stages of their professional lives. This phenomenon stems from several different factors including:
- The pay gap where women are paid 20% less than their male counterparts.
- Women are 21% less likely to be promoted from entry-level to early management compared to their male colleagues, and this statistic continues to rise as it moves up all the way to C-suite level positions. It’s even worse for women of color.
- The disproportionate way mid-career issues, including family and children, affect women, wherein they are most often sidelined to supporting roles and no longer considered for higher leadership positions.
- The lack of access to career-building support, including mentorships, sponsors and networks, compared to men.
- Traditional gender bias that continues to persist in the workplace.
The lack of women in key leadership positions, in turn, affects the way younger women and girls approach their career trajectory. As Deanna Strabble-Soethout, EVP and CFO of Principal Financial group, states, “The lack of women in C-suite positions is a self-perpetuating cycle. Because we don’t have many females in the C-suite, young women don’t see role models or potential paths towards executive level leadership and are more likely to deselect themselves out of higher-level leadership roles.”
This may be one of many reasons why we see a lack of women in college trying to get into fields dominated by men, including computer programming, engineering, and finance, which in turn limits women’s career opportunities.
The report delves into how we can address and improve the abysmal state of women in the workplace. We cannot ignore the need for corporations, society and the government to make changes to how things are currently run, but as women, we can be proactive in making change for ourselves.
Here’s what women can do to work toward permanently fixing that leaky pipeline:
1. Improve our overall confidence in ourselves.
There are studies that have shown there is a correlation between confidence and success. The wage gap is not the only problem women encounter in the workplace, there is also a confidence gap and men have been shown to have a higher confidence level than women. Several factors may have contributed to this, like centuries of women being raised to believe that they have to be agreeable, otherwise they are not “good”. We have to work on being confident enough to go after our goals without feeling the need to apologize.
2. Find the Key to Work-Life Balance.
Mid-career issues have a higher impact on women than men, thus women especially have to cultivate their skill in finding the balance between their career and family lives. We must have a strategy on what responsibilities and opportunities to pursue in the workplace that would best serve our career trajectory.
3. Women Support Women.
While there is a huge lack of high-level women leaders in the corporate world, they are there. We have to work together to make them more visible and accessible for mentorship and sponsorship. Even in your own workplace, never hesitate to approach women managers to mentor you. Based on the report, an overwhelming majority of women have answered that they would mentor if only they were asked.
Are you looking for leadership mentors or a support group to help you develop your skills as a leader? Find out how you can join the Rise and Lead Women Forum, a group dedicated to empowering the female workforce with a stronger presence, boldness, and visibility and amplifying women voices in order to help them become leaders of change.
Ebere Akadiri is A Nigerian Food Entrepreneur who lives in The Hague. Her passion to inspire others to achieve their goals drove her to found Rise and Lead Women along with her co-founder, Poonam Barua. Their mission is to inspire women to take the lead in closing the gender gap in workplaces and in business.