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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 

Recent survey data reveal the effects of COVID-19 on women’s careers 

Last month, record job losses pushed women and people of color out of the workforce en mass with over 140,000 jobs lost in December alone. The effects of COVID-19 on women’s careers has been extensive. Women in the U.S. have bore the brunt of pandemic-related layoffs, resulting in over 5 million jobs lost according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

How COVID-19 has affected women’s careers 

Since the pandemic hit in March of 2020, working women have faced extraordinary pressure to balance both their careers and families. Over 2 million women have since dropped out of the workforce to focus on childcare duties and aid in homeschooling through distance learning as many schools still remain closed. 

In a survey conducted by UBS Global Wealth Management, more than 60% of women said their careers have been hurt in some way due to COVID-19. 

effects of COVID-19 on women’s careers

How COVID-19 is affecting women’s careers. (Graphic source: UBS Investor Pulse Survey)

“The idea of work-life balance has been placed out of balance,” says Paula Polito, Vice Chairperson at UBS Global Wealth Management. “Women are having to renegotiate the so-called “double shift” and focus on household and childcare duties. As a result, their careers are taking a back seat.”

Additionally, the survey revealed that many women and men have fallen back on traditional gender roles during the pandemic with women taking on the majority of cleaning, cooking, and childcare tasks while men were more likely to take on yard work. 

Women shoulder more responsibilities at home than men. (Graphic source: UBS Investor Pulse Survey)

The still-prevalent gender wage gap has also been a key factor in determining who will leave their job when times get tough. The average American woman still only makes 80 cents to a man’s dollar. This means when one spouse is needed at home, women will unfortunately be more likely to sideline their own careers during these difficult times. 

Is there a silver lining? 

While the survey shows how women’s careers have suffered due to COVID-19, one silver lining from the pandemic is that women are showing signs of being more engaged in their finances.

In the survey, nearly 70% of women said they are discussing money more with their partner and nearly half said they are discussing inheritance with their kids.

Women are discussing finances more with family. (Graphic source: UBS Investor Pulse Survey)

The pandemic has brought on a sense of urgency for people. Families have begun to reflect and consider the “what-ifs.” These concerns for the future have prompted many women to consider what would happen if they lost their job or if something happened to their spouse. As a result, more women are talking about finances and engaging with their money. 

However the survey also shows that there is a gap between intention and action for many. Survey data showed that while 40% of women indicated in May that they were considering reviewing their financial situation, only 12% have done so, resulting in a 28% gap between intention and action. The other numbers in the table above also reflect similar gaps, showing that there is still much work to be done in regards to how women approach and engage with their finances. 

effects of COVID-19 on women’s careers

Working from home has its benefits. (Graphic source: UBS Investor Pulse Survey)

Lastly, the effects of COVID-19 on women’s careers have not all been bad. More than half of the women surveyed revealed feeling good about working from home with 66% saying they plan to continue working from home more often. Additionally, 53% feel it is less stressful and around 60% cite that they are more productive and have a better work-life balance now.