The numbers in the workplace don’t lie. But they don’t always tell the full story when you consider the fact that the workplace woes of women extend way beyond just the gender wage gap.
Workplace equality has been a long-fought battle. Although women have experienced tremendous strides over the past fifty years, employers have more to do when it comes to equitable salaries and the pernicious sexism that still exists in some workplaces and industries.
The Perpetrators of Office Sexism
And, perhaps even more importantly, the everyday perpetrators of office sexism aren’t necessarily those stereotypical male executives. Everyday people at work can also contribute to women's woes in the workplace.
Why does this matter? Not only does it benefit these women and their families, in the long run, thanks to recent research by consulting firm McKinsey & Company, it’s also good for the bottom line and overall health of the economy.
In partnership with Recruiter.com and Toluna QuickSurveys, 1,000 Dreams Fund surveyed 1,000+ women aged 18-35 about their workplace woes. While some of the findings were expected, many of them came as a surprise.
Woe 1: The wage gap is a prickly subject, and many employers and employees are uninformed.
The math behind the gender wage gap isn’t universally accepted. Although the common refrain is that women make 80 cents on the dollar, some economics experts counter that this figure neglects to account for other important variables, such as the industry in question and hours worked.
It’s possible, in fact, that a large part of wage discrepancy does not come from malice but instead ignorance. Employees must know their own value, and employers must know what other companies pay similar-skilled staffers. Factors like education and experience have an impact on the appropriate pay for any person—male or female.
Determining that figure is infinitely easier thanks to resources such as Glassdoor, Payscale.com, and LinkedIn. Employees, both prospective and current, should check the comps and know the salaries and backgrounds of people in related positions at other companies.
Know what people with your skill set are paid, and have enough confidence to ask for (or demand) what you’re worth—especially once you have the data on your side.
As for employers, you should know that you risk losing out on excellent applicants and even long-time employees if you aren’t willing to provide competitive wages. The internet, in this sense, is not your friend. Salaries are transparent. So come to the table with offers and promotions that are appropriate, or you’ll turn off your most coveted candidates.
That said, well over half—58%—of the survey respondents said that they aim to chase their dreams, not paychecks. So if your company is lacking in financing but can offer unique and meaningful work, female employees may negotiate on salaries in exchange for exciting work opportunities.
Women must advocate for their own professional growth.
Negotiating a salary is tricky. For incoming employees, it is difficult to leverage just how much flexibility exists in the job offer. For existing employees, it always feels like the wrong time to ask for a promotion or raise.
The first step, as described above, is self-education, followed by self-betterment. Know what others in your field are paid. Then set out to prove that you are not only as valuable as those people but even more so. Extend and showcase your skill set so that your executives can clearly see that you are a company asset.
When you do broach the subject of a promotion or a raise, you’ll have already established—without saying a word—why you deserve it.
It’s also highly useful to seek insights from workplace mentors. Higher-level employees can provide key guidance in professional growth, especially if they previously held a position similar to yours. They may have invaluable advice on how to approach certain colleagues in regards to promotions and raises. A mentor may also choose to advocate for you along the way, vouching for your credibility and potential.
Woe 2: Workplace bullying can devastate company morale and drive great employees away from you.
According to the data collected, nearly a quarter of women have experienced workplace bullying, sexism and/or harassment. Perhaps even more concerningly, the perpetrators are more likely to be fellow women, according to our research.
There are dozens of reasons why one employee may take up arms against another. But it is guaranteed that this behavior is inappropriate and damaging.
How to end it? You first must first identify it, and that isn’t always so easy. The early signs are best described as when somebody is actively looking to undermine a coworker in the workplace, whether publicly or behind that person’s back.
For example, do you have someone intentionally trying to make you look bad in meetings? Or have you heard from other coworkers that an individual is questioning your authority on a project? This is subversive behavior that starts slowly but can continue to grow if you don’t take notice and address it head-on.
As for managers, turning a blind eye to employee squabbles may seem like an easy fix, but allowing harassment to fester can result in a huge mess for the whole team. If employee-on-employee bullying is so blatant that even you’re aware of it, that’s a big red flag. Take heed.
Squash the tension with a level-headed one-on-one talk.
Most female-to-female workplace harassment comes from a place of jealousy, resentment, or guarding territory. Even so, that doesn’t make it any less hurtful when you are on the receiving end of snarky comments or full-on sabotage.
The biggest mistake in handling workplace bullying is allowing your hurt feelings or animosity to have an impact on the discussion. Employees dealing with a difficult coworker should check their emotions at the door before asking that person to meet over coffee.
Once you’re in a comfortable space outside the office, show your willingness to listen, understand their side, and be vulnerable. Showing that you are imperfect, not a threat, may make the person more willing to work with you, not against you.
Do not lose your cool in front of coworkers or, worse yet, your boss. Showing your grace and strength under pressure is a huge win for your career. Even if you do have to confide in your manager for the sake of your job security, he or she will appreciate that you took all efforts to calmly handle this issue on your own first.
Woe 3: Highly skilled young women suspect their managers are passing over them.
You often hear of ageism as a problem for older employees, but a stunning 77 percent of survey respondents say their age has prevented them from receiving an interview or offer. Surprising, right?
Of course, there are many variables that go into a presumed age-based bias—75% also said that they were not fully confident in their interview skills, which likely correlates to lack of experience. But, such a high figure indicates that there is merit to ageism in the hiring process. And, more than half of the student and recent graduate respondents are not confident that they’ll secure a well-paying job in their chosen field.
Here’s the deal, as millennial and Gen Z women already know, droves of young people are directly competing against each other for the exact same jobs. That’s especially true in highly oversaturated industries, but competition is fierce across the board. So how do you stand out from the crowd, even with a college degree that’s still hot off the press?
Mind your financial goals by pursuing the best-paying options.
Recognize, first, that thousands of young people are all clamoring for the same jobs. In many cases, landing the perfect job comes down to timing and luck. Unfortunately, timing and luck can’t pay your rent—but a paycheck sure can.
While your peers sink deeper and deeper into student debt, all waiting indefinitely for that insanely awesome job, set yourself apart by taking smart action. Market yourself to companies that aren't exactly what you want, but can help you develop your skills and bring in a decent paycheck until you’re more desirable for ultra-competitive roles.
In furthering your career, Gen Z and millennial women must wait patiently but proactively. If you’re not growing, you’re standing still while others are surging right past you.
And when it comes to those ongoing workplace woes for women, especially those who are just starting their careers, all employers have a role to play in ensuring the advancement and success of women in the workplace.