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The glass ceiling: Career development inequality for women of color

With November being Career Development Month, it is a time for employers to think about leveling the playing field for women in general and women of color in particular.

Schools and businesses across the country will host events connecting students with professionals. The National Career Development Association promoted the start of National Career Development Month in 1967. Their goal was to improve development at all stages of one’s career. Even with great efforts, women still face challenges in achieving senior roles. 

Women have achieved lower and middle management positions, but many have hit the “glass ceiling” in reaching upper-level management roles. In fact, they account for only 25% of senior roles globally. There are a number of reasons why this occurs such as systemic gender bias existing within companies. work and home imbalances, and even women lacking the confidence to apply due to their slight chances of success.

An important issue to consider is women being the primary caregivers for their children. This responsibility that usually falls on the mother results in many women having to work part-time, while most men are able to work full-time and overtime. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, one in five workers in the US knows of a woman who had to voluntarily leave the workforce during the pandemic because of such responsibilities. This imbalance leads to fewer promotional opportunities. 

Workplace solutions to shatter the glass ceiling 

Finding solutions to this issue is not as complicated as one may think:

  • Providing a hybrid work environment is a solution that gives women flexibility in balancing work and home life. As we realized during the COVID-19 pandemic, working remotely is possible for many industries. Another solution would be to minimize promotion and compensation bias.
  • Both men and women are concerned that they may miss out on career development if they are not physically in the workplace. It can be challenging to intentionally recognize employees who work from home but it is vital to career development for women. 
  • Additionally, in more male-dominated companies, women find that their opinions are not respected. Barbara Annis, who is an expert in gender issues in the workplace, says that “women often feel ignored during business meetings, which might lead to lowered self-esteem and decreased chances for career advancement.” This bias comes from leaders believing that males have more potential even than well-qualified women. Allowing women a voice and space to speak freely allows them the confidence to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and innovative ideas. 

To demonstrate just how wide the gap is with promotion opportunities between men and women, “for every 100 men getting their first promotion, just 72 women are promoted… for women of color, the number is lower, with 68 Latinas and 58 Black women promoted to management.” These numbers reveal a difference in opportunity not only by gender but by race as well. 

You might be interested: “We are being left behind” in the C-suite and boardroom says LCDA CEO Esther Aguilera

Strategies to help women advance their careers

  1. Find a mentor– Many highly successful women give credit to a mentor who helped them get to where they are today! A benefit for those wanting to develop their careers is to network and join organizations that provide an opportunity to establish strong relationships with women in senior roles.
  2. Be persistent– It can take a great amount of patience in obtaining a desired job or promotion. The key is to not give up, write down one’s goals, and obtain help to achieve them!
  3. Project confidence– Confidence is key whether it is genuine or a facade, individuals with confidence hold power. Being confident in one’s values, experiences, and skills will provide a greater chance of success.
  4. Build a network– Network, socialize, meet people! Networking within and outside of one’s organization is a good idea in case a unexpected situation arises. It is always worth the time and effort and can open doors to many job opportunities!

Latinas in Business Editorial Intern Val Gaytan contributed to this article. 

Sources: 

https://work.chron.com/career-development-issues-facing-women-12098.html 

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/mariaminor/2020/12/05/women-in-the-workplace-why-t hey-dont-get-recognized-as-much-as-men/?sh=38adc9b657df 

https://www.livecareer.com/resources/jobs/search/women-career-strategies