The playing field that women operate on in the workplace is shockingly unlevel.
Let’s start with some stats to see the real picture of the current environment we work in.
I learnt some very interesting facts on this from Why Women Win At Work by Gill Whitty-Collins – a book I highly recommend.
At the beginning of their career, 43% of women and 34% of men aspire to reach top management. Surprisingly, it's actually more women than men aspire for that.
Just two years later, 34% of men still aspire to reach top management. However, the percentage of women has dropped to 16%.
The question on my mind is what’s happening in those two years of experiencing the workplace that is changing women's minds about what they want to do or what they think is possible for them?
The current dynamics of the 9-5 office workplace were established by men for men, when the majority of women looking after the home and their families. The lives we have now (women and men alike) don’t fit into this old model.
Historic perspectives of the workplace and biases towards men has meant that the majority of senior managers, directors and CEOs are still men. In 2018, in the FTSE 100 there were more CEOs called John than there were women CEOs.
I believe the reason why I see so many talented women experience imposter feelings and self-doubt is because we’re still trying to prove ourselves in a workplace where essentially, we feel like we don't belong.
Knowing all of this, it’s obvious that something needs to change. But where do you start? A great place for each of us to take action individually is supporting and championing other women within our organisation, industry and networks.
Here are 4 ways to do that:
Make a proactive effort to support other women in the meetings that you’re part of. As there’s usually likely to be less women it’s important to give them airtime.
Can you ask your colleague what her thoughts or opinions on a matter are? Could you encourage one of the women on your team to present?
Women still find it hard to be heard in meetings with their contributions not taken as seriously as their male counterparts when men outnumber women in the room. It can be uncomfortable and confronting to have to stand up for yourself in a room full of people.
If you see a female colleague being looked-over, dismissed or interrupted, can you advocate for her and call out any bad behaviour when it happens?
This bad behaviour can often spill out of the meeting room and into the workplace. Try to call this out when you see it and support your female colleagues if it’s a persistent issue that they want to address formally.
Mentoring and sponsoring is a brilliant way to help other women succeed around you.
A mentor is a supporter who will share advice and their experiences, and be a sounding board for you. A sponsor goes a step further than that. This is an individual within your organisation who will champion you, advocate for you, help you to raise your profile and get new opportunities.
For your own development, could you find a sponsor? And could you proactively mentor or sponsor some of the women that work for you and champion them in your organisation?
I’ve seen first-hand in my programme, Influence & Impact, how powerful it is to be in a community of ambitious successful women who share their experiences, offer advice and who are incredibly supportive of each other. I see these women championing each other weekly in our coaching calls, peer masterminds and Facebook group.
Being in such an empowering space means that each woman creates positive ripples in their individual organisations and for the women who work with them.
You could be involved in a women’s network either in, or external from, your organisation, create your own group, join a network online or enroll in a programme like Influence & Impact.
I’d love to hear your ideas on how we can all play a role in making the playing field more level for women and for all groups who are in a minority within the workplace and rooms where decisions are made.
For more articles on the issues that impact women leaders at work follow Carla Miller on LinkedIn
Find out about the various ways Carla works with women leaders and organisations on her website www.carlamillertraining.com