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Years after the women’s liberation movement, many women still have trouble living up to their potential in the business world. While more and more women are deciding to start their own businesses and climb the corporate ladder with the goal one day becoming a CEO, few of these women actually ever live up to their dreams. This may come as a surprise given the fact that women are just as educated and ambitious as men. In fact, 60% of advanced degree holders are women. However, the glass ceiling is still an all-too-real problem for high-achieving businesswomen. Here are a few of the challenges women face in today’s corporate climate.
Promotion and Wage Gaps
Although women have proven time and time again that they are just as capable as men in business, there is still a huge disparity between what men and women earn in their jobs. On average women earn less than 23% than men. Some may argue that women have smaller pay checks because they’re more likely to work in lower paying jobs in education or the non-profit sector. However, research shows that men are often paid more than women to do the exact same jobs.
Women are also promoted less frequently than men. In fact, women today hold only 4% of the CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies. More than 75% of Congress is also made of men. Analysts speculate the lack of women in leadership positions may be due to several causes. First, there are fewer female than male role models. This may cause women to have lower ambitions than they should. In addition, research has shown men are more likely to request promotions.
Although there are certainly fewer stay at home moms now than there were fifty years ago, a surprising number of women choose to take years off from work to start their family. Even if they decide to keep working through the childbearing years, society still expects women to be primary caretakers. When mothers aren’t, people often make sarcastic or rude remarks. Sometimes, people even claim that a career-driven woman is aggressive or cold hearted. This frequently causes women to perform double duty — many women entrepreneurs run both a business and a family. Picture a female executive working 60 hours a week as a clinical director at a rehab facility while still balancing a home life. Cold hearted? No, Super Woman!
Women also have to overcome gender stereotypes in other to rise to the top. Often, people expect women to be one of two things: nice or ambitious. When women are successful in their positions and set their sights high, their colleagues — both male and female — tend to see them as aggressive. On the flip side, when women are too nice they’re not taken seriously. This forces women to strike a delicate balance between efficiency and friendliness. Unfortunately, men are not held to this same standard, so they generally have an easier time at work.
Fear of Failure
Another reason women may not be as successful as men is that they are more worried about failure. In general, women are more likely to think about the future, and they carefully evaluate how each and every business decision will impact them in the long run. At first, this may seem like a good quality. After all, isn’t preparing for the future a good thing?
However, being too cautious actually hinders advancement. Fear and hesitation prevent a person from taking the necessary risks on the road to success. It certainly takes a big leap of faith to invest in a start-up, for example. If you worry too much about your business failing, you may just give up and settle for the job you already have. In addition, fear can cause you to be less confident, and unfortunately having confidence is key to advancement.
Image cover source: Make Room for Mommy