I am tired of the assumption that it is the woman holding herself back from career growth; sometimes it isn’t the woman. Sometimes it is the culture and leadership of the organization.
In an article that appeared in the NY Magazine, author Lisa Miller talks about the fact that it isn’t just the woman who is pulling back on her career opportunities for the needs of her family but also an assumption by companies that women won’t want those added responsibilities.
The article, Stop Blaming Women for Holding Themselves Back, she shares information from a study that showed that although women and men start in their careers equally poised for success and growth, it is the men that typically find more opportunity and success. The assumption is that, during child-bearing years, women will naturally want to pull back on travel and promotions in favor of having babies and caring for their families. Whereas those companies that instead make accommodations for women on their team having families without assuming they have a lessor commitment to their job, allows women to seek out and obtain greater responsibility.
Lisa has a message for business leaders that belies the fact that it is only the woman’s responsibility to seek advancement:
Try harder. That’s the message that women hear all around. Try harder to be happy. Try harder to be skinny. Try harder to be a good employee, mother, wife, daughter, friend. Try harder to feed your family nutritious meals and to give your child every possible opportunity. Try harder to find “flow” at work. Try harder to succeed. But, as the HBS study reminds us, when there’s a whole lot of trying without commensurate succeeding, then you have to start to consider that the game is rigged. And the risk to entertaining that thought is great indeed, for the thought that follows is a weighty one. What are we going to do about it? Perhaps the first step is to stop channeling all of that criticism inward or toward individual women and instead turn it outward. Companies need to try harder, too.
Check out this information from the article The Surprising Reasons Working Women Are Held Back:
New research from Bentley University on Millennial women in the workplace shows that while they are as capable as men at decision-making and tend to shine in areas like communicating with others, as well as being generally more organized and better prepared for entering the work force, women still lag behind men in key areas. When it comes to leadership, for example, or being perceived as able to succeed in business, men still hold the upper hand.
When asked, 56% of women and 47% of men said that women could be more successful if they were encouraged to believe that doing so would not jeopardize their status as spouse or parent. In other words, women need to be convinced that they can “have it all”.
My book: The Working Woman’s GPS: When the Plan to Have It All Has Led You Astray, is all about a woman’s desire to have a fulfilling life; what is keeping her from success and how can she change her direction.
It is important that we work within a company that recognizes your contributions and potential for future leadership roles and encourages the opportunity to create a work/life balance. Additionally, seeking out a mentor within the company that can help support and guide you in the advancement process is a great benefit.
We need to stop making the assumptions that because we are having children or having a family that we must juggle along without our career that we must take ourselves out of the running for advancement. It is possible to be dedicated to your career and have a loving family life.