January 15, 2013

A Look Back at 2012

As you know, 2012 was a year of women’s accomplishments – we were primary breadwinners in a majority of US households, we were more educated than ever previously, and we saw females named to leadership positions in the political and corporate world.

But the Harvard Business Review noted earlier this month that there are still puzzling issues females will be facing in 2013, which continue to make us wonder about how much progress we have yet to make:

PAY:  According to the latest research, women are better educated than ever – earn nearly 60% of college degrees.  But we are still paid, on average, 23% less than men.  Career and life choices may cause some of this disparity, but in an analysis of full-time employees 10 years out of college, there was still a 12% difference in earnings not explained by profession or educational level.

GENDER STEREOTYPES:  Catalyst, a research firm tracking women’s progress in all fields, confirms that gender stereotypes make it difficult for female leaders to feel comfortable taking a “leadership” attitude because they are perceived as either competent or liked, but not both.  Forbes recently reported, "Studies show that assertive women are more likely to be perceived as aggressive; that women usually don't ask for what they deserve but when they do, they risk being branded as domineering or, worse even, "ambitious."

PROMOTIONS:  Females still attain far fewer job slots at the top of the corporation – only 4% of CEOs in the Fortune 1,000 top companies are female, and Congress is still less than 20% women.  There may be many ways to rationalize this fact, but the pool of qualified candidates for top jobs or leadership positions gets smaller when the best women leave to raise a family or for other opportunities.

NETWORKING:  Women may build wonderful relationships, but we seldom use our connections for jobs or promotions.  When we network, we typically don’t exchange business ideas or ask for jobs, and we need to use this opportunity for the career potential it offers.

BUSINESS OWNERSHIP:  Females are wonderful entrepreneurs, but it’s tough to find venture capital.   A 2012 analysis by Dow Jones VentureSource reported that women launch nearly half of all startups, and the most successful startups have more women in senior positions than unsuccessful ones.  Yet less than 7% of executives in over 20,000 companies studied by Dow Jones were women.

“HAVE-IT-ALL” SYNDROME”:   Women today still feel pressure to “have it all” and can become stressed or discouraged when we realize this seems impossible.  Both women and men feel this pressure, but more often, women leave work or change schedules when it’s needed.

Our work in raising awareness about these challenges is important not only because of fairness, but because girls and women need confidence and support as they move up the corporate or political ladder, and more qualified girls and women fill the pipeline for the future.  Avoiding the mixed messages and coaching girls and women to achieve their aspirations is the work of Chrysalis.