Men and women are graduating from college at equal rates these days and entering the workforce at equal rates. But, between the time they enter the workforce and reach their career trajectory, something happens—something that holds women back from achieving both the top titles and top pay that their male colleagues achieve.
What gives? Women: could it be that you’re doing something to sabotage your career?
Stop Sabotaging Your Career
Catalyst conducted longitudinal research on this topic, gathering data through seven surveys that gathered input from MBA graduates at 26 top business schools in Asia, Canada, Europe and the United States, following them from graduation into their careers. Their findings challenged a number of long-standing beliefs about the gender gap, including:
- There is no glass ceiling.
- The corporate gender gap is due to women’s choices.
- Women lag because they have too few mentors.
- Women don’t help other women get ahead.
- Men and women receive the same development opportunities.
So, what really explains the gap? Here’s a look at what their findings tell us and what the results mean for women who may, however inadvertently, be sabotaging their opportunities for career growth.
Equal Pay from the Get-Go
Catalyst’s research indicates that even when looking at male and female professionals with common backgrounds in terms of experience, women were more likely to start their first jobs at a lower pay level than men. That puts them on unequal footing from the get-go.
Don’t sabotage your career! Solution: Know what the prevailing wage rates are for your industry and geography and vow to negotiate for a fair rate of pay, even if that feels uncomfortable for you. Never settle for the first offer you receive; there’s always room for negotiation.
Don’t Be Shy About Shining Your Light
According to the longitudinal research, while doing “all the right things” from a career standpoint benefitted men, the same benefits weren’t seen by women. In fact, their level of advancement was less than their male counterparts’ Why? One reason may be that while women may do all the right things, they’re not as vocal as their male colleagues in terms of telling others about their accomplishments.
According to Catalyst: “The only strategy associated with compensation growth for women was ensuring that their manager was aware of their accomplishments—by seeking feedback and credit as appropriate and asking for a promotion when they felt it was deserved.
Don’t sabotage your career! Solution: Don’t assume your manager and senior leaders within the organization know what a great job you’re doing them. Tell them. And tie your communications about your achievements to tangible, objective, quantitative ways you’re helping the organization achieve its goals.
Seek More Senior-Level Mentors
Catalyst’s research indicated that having a mentor before entering their first post-MBA jobs resulted in more compensation and high-level positions. But men benefitted more. Why. Apparently, the level of the mentor—not gender—impacted career advancement. Men’s mentors tended to be at a higher level than their female colleagues.
Don’t sabotage your career! Solution: Aim high when it comes to seeking a mentor at an early stage of your career. Don’t “settle” for a VP-level mentor, when a C-level executive, maybe even the CEO, could help your career trajectory.
Here’s an interesting finding. Catalyst’s research indicated that those who were developing other talent advanced faster and had higher salaries than those who were not developing others.
Don’t sabotage your career! Solution: While having a mentor—in fact, many mentors—throughout your career is important, don’t overlook the big benefits (personal and professional) that can come from mentoring others. Again, seek to mentor others who are in, or have the potential to rise to, the highest levels within the organization.
Select the “Right” Job Opportunities
Board level service is often a goal for both male and female business professionals. It represents an opportunity to serve at the highest level of influence for an organization. Yet while more than two-thirds (69%) of respondents to Catalyst’s research indicated an interest in board service, men tended to have the types of jobs that gave them the leadership experience that boards were looking for.
Don’t sabotage your career! Solution: Women have historically been over-represented in service-related types of careers in organizations: human resources, communication, etc. Their male counterparts, on the other hand, tend to be over-represented in areas where boards are seeking members. What are these areas? According to Women Corporate Directors: “Currently trending are experience as a CEO (obviously), CFO, or CPA; experience in BRIC and ASEAN countries; expertise in CAMS (Cloud, Analytics, Mobility and/or Social Media) and other technology experience, such as data security.”
Work to Belong
Women are still in the minority in many companies in terms of representation at the senior levels of management. Consequently, those that hold these positions, or aspire to them, tend to be “outsiders” or “others.” Catalyst’s research takes a look at how career opportunities, advancement and aspirations can be impacted by multiple sources of otherness—women who are also minorities in other ways (e.g. race and gender) may face additional obstacles.
Don’t sabotage your career! Solution: Build a diverse network to overcome “otherness.” While it may be “comfortable” to interact with others like you who can be supportive and may share similar experiences, building a diverse network can help you develop a sense of belonging among more diverse groups—that belonging makes you less of an “other” and more a part of the leadership ranks you aspire to.
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