If you are a woman or have worked with one, you would know that women are as well educated, talented, and hardworking as their male counterparts. Women in the workplace outperform men in crucial business competencies, such as emotional intelligence and empathy. Studies have shown that gender diversity fosters creativity and innovation, critical in today’s competitive economy. Despite all the obvious reasons, women are still underrepresented in key fields as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and politics. Gender bias in the workplace is still an outstanding issue. Additionally, women don’t have a reputation for great salary negotiating skills. However, presented with the right opportunities, all of these problems for women in the business world could be resolved.
Why do we need more women in business?
At first glance, the question seems rhetorical, right? Sure – “we run the world (girls)!” Yet, a careful look at the statistics would make anyone question women’s role in the workplace. Over the years, the percentage of women entering the workforce has gradually increased as the US economy has evolved from traditional manufacturing and agricultural jobs towards the technology-oriented global economy. Women held 50% of the American jobs as of December 2019, excluding farm workers and the self-employed, per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women have gained increased control of spending in American households. They’ve helped fuel the enormous growth of the service sector, where female employment is predominant. As a result, health care, fashion, hospice, meal preparation, retail, personal care services, to name a few, have sprung up engaging a large number of women in the business and entrepreneurial world.
What category of career woman do you fall into? Let’s breakdown the types of women in business:
● Corporate Leadership (C-level)
● Corporate Non-Leadership (47% of the business workforce)
● Other (non-profit, academic, arts, politics, law enforcement, military, etc.)
Corporate Leadership category includes women in various executive roles of CEO, CFO, CMO, COO, CFO, corporate board members, as well as presidential/director roles. Peterson Institute for International Economics recent report has found that having more women in overall executive positions correlated to higher profitability at organizations. "Going from having no women in corporate leadership to a 30% female share is associated with a one-percentage-point increase in net margin — which translates to a 15% increase in profitability for a typical firm.”
Corporate Non-Leadership category represents women in entry and mid-level business positions where they are reporting up to managers and have no direct reports under them. A small fraction here reflects women in mid-management roles as team leads. Corporate Non-Leadership category, in particular, constitutes almost half of all the women in the workplace!
Female Entrepreneurs: currently, around 30% of all privately-owned firms in the US are led by women. Most of the female entrepreneurs have had previous business careers and enter the entrepreneurial world later on in life, around 40–60 years old. Even though more women are starting their own businesses, women entrepreneurs have some social, financial, and gender-based challenges to cope with as well.
Other category includes women in roles as individual contributors in public service areas, such as academics, arts, politics, law enforcement, military, medicine, non- profit sector, etc. The US Department of Labor defines a non-traditional career as one in which 25% or less employed across the field are women.
To be successful in the contemporary business world, one has to be assertive, confident, or dominant, and those just some of the characteristics associated with leadership. However, when most of us think such individuals have those traits, we often tend to think of men. Women are well educated, talented, and just as hardworking as their male counterparts. So, what is the problem? Women don’t face barriers to entering the workplace, but they face multiple obstacles when it comes to advancement. Women meet more resistance, cultural stereotypes, shortage of confidence from male leadership, and isolation as they move up the business ranks.
Women in Business:
Advantages: A 2016 study published by the global consulting firm Hay Group found that women outperform men in 11 of 12 key emotional intelligence competencies. Women excel at soft skills like effective communication, empathy, and self-awareness. All of those are difficult to measure. However, they are highly valued and make a real difference to the bottom line. Diversity – all aspects of diversity as to gender, culture, age, and race have proven to foster creativity and innovation. Recent research from McKinsey shows that gender-diverse businesses are 15% more likely to outperform financially above the industry median.
Challenges: Women are still underrepresented in key fields of the economy. In STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) labor sectors, women make up just 24% of the workforce in the U.S. overall. Organizations as the National Girls Collaborative Project and Girls Who Code are working to inspire women to pursue computer science and engineering careers to close the gender gap in STEM industries.
Gender bias in the workplace. Underlying gender bias means the same behavior and characteristics—initiative, passion, and taking charge—can be interpreted differently in men and women. Men may be encouraged to be ambitious or assertive; women are programmed from a young age not to be “bossy.”
Women are great for business but are still getting pushed out. It generally happens because of the historical preconceived notions and gender stereotypes. Single women are hired quickly for entry-level roles, while married men with kids are hired for leadership roles. Moreover, married women with kids experience a slower career growth path as the assumption is that their time and attention are divided between professional and family duties. Despite having higher emotional intelligence, women face harder challenges to be taken seriously as leaders.
Women are less successful at negotiating salaries. Glassdoor recent survey on salary negotiation found that 68% of women accepted the salary without negotiation, while nearly half of the men surveyed negotiated before taking a role. It also revealed that when women did try to negotiate their starting salary the outcome was generally less favorable. For too long experts have been looking to close the gender pay gap (women make 78 cents per dollar that men earn) without much meaningful progress.
Opportunities start on the legislative side by making policies for gender equality, diversity, and inclusion on both state and federal levels. Organizations can attract top talent if they provide benefits equally to all genders and open opportunities without holding any biases.
Starting your own business and being the boss is one of the fastest ways for women to be in a leadership position. Working for startups and small businesses is the gateway for female leaders to develop and become full-time entrepreneurs. At She Alpha Co., it is our mission to help you learn how to start or promote your business! We specialize in helping you find the best business strategy and the path to profitability and growth.
Strengthen your technical and business skills by investing in yourself by taking courses and learning how to stand out from the crowd. There are many useful resources out there, but it is crucial to pick the ones that resonate with your needs, ambitions, personal skills, and business venture goals. She Alpha Co. podcast and She Alpha Co. articles are a good starting point if you’re not sure where to start and are interested to hear from boss babes themselves!
Women Business Leaders - why do we need more?
Women start with equal determination to succeed and develop into leaders. They work hard to fit in the workplace culture, but those efforts mostly lead to long hours, exhaustion, and disappointment. Women inadvertently form a strong outer persona and start mirroring the typical qualities a male leadership style boasts. Women are blamed for not being assertive enough or for being too bossy. They have to be bolder, stronger and develop a thick skin to be taken seriously and perceived as equal. Lack of good mentors and coaches also leaves many potential female candidates with no one to turn to for advice. Often working moms who try to balance family responsibilities and career growth, with little to no help, end up burning out and remain in the same roles for years. It's certainly very challenging and tough being a woman in a leadership role. Yet, the handful of top female CEOs makes us realize that our dream is possible!
What’s the solution?
The challenge for an ambitious woman is to gain respect and acceptance among male peers. One way to achieve this is through mentorship and sponsorship.
Mentors provide insight and knowledge that is not available in books and policies. In the past, they have often walked the same path as their mentees. Learning from experience is the greatest lesson to learn in any field. Because of their years of experience in the industry, mentors are privy to a strong network of resources they can open for you. Networking leads to opportunities that would not be available without their influence. A good mentor makes a difference!
Sponsorship can mean sponsoring for further education and providing financial support to start or grow a business. Having good financial backing proves to be a great head start for women entrepreneurs. Most sponsors are venture capitalists or serial investors who understand business and invest in profitable ideas.
In conclusion, we can all agree that women leaders can foster diversity, increase profitability, scale up operations, and nurture upcoming female leaders. Only if the organizations make this their priority; if there are adequate policies in place; if there are mentors who take time to prepare new leaders and reduce the gap in gender and pay scale, then we may raise and encourage more female leaders to step up and conquer.
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Written by: She Alpha Co. Communications Team