Although things are improving, women continue to be underrepresented at every level in the workplace. A 2019 study by Women in the Workplace shows that women hold only 21 percent of C-Suite level positions and 38 percent of management positions. Much of this is due, of course, to bias, both conscious and unconscious, at every level, the lack of sponsorship, being judged by different standards, and the fact that women are still largely responsible for running their households in addition to their regular full-time jobs.
All that said, there are things we do that hold ourselves back too! These are things we can change with a little mindfulness and advance planning. It wasn’t until I started doing these TikTok videos that have received an overwhelming response that I realized the need for these discussions, so women let’s get down to it. Here are several things women do that hold us back in the workplace, and what we can do to fix it.
Accepting Lower Salaries
We have all heard the reports about the wage gap, and this study by Monster.com indicates that women earn 77.1 cents for every dollar earned by men. But why?
According to Carole Frohlinger, JD, managing partner of Negotiating Women, one reason is that we aren’t negotiating for ourselves.
“The reality is women aren’t negotiating money, because most women are reluctant to advocate for themselves.”
The solution? The truth is women often feel uncomfortable negotiating their compensation packages and typically don’t do it as well as their male counterparts. Some don’t negotiate at all! I know it’s awkward and we aren’t used to doing it, but here’s what you can do to prepare for that discussion:
- Keep track of your accomplishments throughout the year so you are prepared when it’s time to negotiate
- Ask a trusted male colleague or friend to coach you or practice with them in a mock situation.
- Ask even if you are uncomfortable – push through it! Gather up your courage and go for it.
Doing Too Much For Free
We already know we are paid less, and if you do the math that salary gap translates to women working 10 free weeks a year compared to their male colleagues. By the end of her career, she will have done four more years doing work than her male peers, according to this article in Glamour Magazine. And, because we feel like we have to work harder, we often take on more work to prove our worth and show value. The culture of long hours at the office does not account for the unpaid work women are still doing at home, many of whom are single mothers struggling with daycare and other household responsibilities.
The solution? It’s ok to volunteer for projects to build your skillset and to show value of course, but know when to say no. If you’re given a task that can’t be completed in normal work hours, ask if overtime is required. If the answer is yes, see if you can negotiate for time off later in exchange or, if overtime is paid, then you will have established an understanding about that with your supervisors.
Treating Other Women Like Adversaries
Sex discrimination exists. But what we don’t often realize is that it is sometimes perpetuated by other women! When there are fewer resources, in this case opportunities, it becomes natural for people to compete, even if in an unhealthy way, for those resources. In other words, women treating each other like adversaries is often the result of inequality rather than the cause.
Resist the temptation to hoard information and undermine and instead, work on lifting each other up.
The solution? Look at other women with compassion, set an example for them, and keep communication open and inclusive. Resist the temptation to hoard information and undermine and instead, work on lifting each other up.
Thinking That Passiveness = Politeness
When you are passive you might think, in the short term, that you are being approved of by others and perceived as polite. This passiveness is often reflected in our speech patterns and word choices, as I’ve outlined in a blog titled Four Easy Ways to Improve Your Email Communication, which came out of a viral TikTok video I published. A well-meaning but somewhat defensive woman commented on that video, “I’m going to keep saying these things because I believe in being polite,” implying that I wasn’t polite by not using them.
In truth, using phrases like the following end up cluttering up your message and making it less clear. You also come across like you are asking permission to have an opinion or thought.
- I just think that…
- I hope that…
- I’m sorry to bother you…
- I’m no expert in this but…
The solution? Remove these phrases from your communications. You aren’t going to win approval by using them and you risk losing respect. Instead, share your opinions with assertiveness while still keeping in friendly. You can be assertive and polite at the same time.
I understand discrimination still exists and that the larger forces are out of our control, but there are some things in our control that can better our circumstances. Acknowledging the mistakes women make in the workplace that hold them back is one step toward self-improvement. Own your worth!
What is holding you back? Let me know in the comments or on social media!