What They REALLY Think About Women at Work

Posted by on Apr 21, 2014 in ComLead, Organizational Leadership

What They REALLY Think About Women at Work

From Maria Shriver’s recent report to National Equal Pay Day, women and leadership have been in the national spotlight. March, and Women’s History Month, saw a renewed interest in the challenges and opportunities that women face. One group determined to see women advance here in Buffalo is Women on the Rise, and the ComLead program was honored to help co-host their Women’s History Month event just a few weeks ago.

“What Do They REALLY Think About Women at Work?” brought together a panel of local leaders to answer just that question. With hundreds in attendance, the panelists shared their frank opinions on the barriers they see women face at work, and how to overcome those unique challenges.

The theme for the night, it turns out, was confidence. Women don’t ask for what they need – whether that’s a raise, a promotion, or flexible scheduling. One attendee shared that she had been quietly rearranging her family schedule for months in order to make it to a regular early morning meeting. When, a few months in to the meetings, one of her male colleagues asked to reschedule the meetings so he could see his children to school, their boss recognized him as a family man and happily changed the meeting time. At our event, she shared her takeaway: you don’t get what you don’t ask for.

Why don’t women ask for what they want? This Forbes study points to a potent combination of socialization and idealism. Girls who were raised to be sweet and ladylike are now the hardworking women making 78 cents for every man’s dollar. How do women overcome these barriers?

Our panelists emphasized that talking and negotiating are critical skills for women at work. They advised avoiding talking frivolously – instead, thoughtfully plan what you will say, speak with confidence and assert yourself. For women or men, earning respect and advancement hinges on how clearly and persuasively we communicate.

Again and again, panelists highlighted the critical need for learning how to negotiate salaries and pay raises with confidence, rather than simply accepting what is offered. Women tend to underestimate their ability, and the opposite is true of men, as this recent article in The Atlantic confirms. And because confidence, as we learned at this event, is so crucial to women’s success, the Confidence Gap isn’t just a philosophical problem. It translates into widespread inequality for women as a whole, and barriers the each woman must stand down on her individual career journey.

The kind of honest discussion and support we experienced at Women at Work holds the key for gender equality – at least this young woman thinks so. We can build the confidence of women around us, and we must believe in our own smarts and talent.

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