Today 40% of women are the main family breadwinners. How does this dynamic play out in the modern workplace? That was the topic I was a happy to explore as a guest on SiriusXMStars The Perri Peltz show. Also on the show, Maureen Sherry, former Wall Street Managing Director (the youngest to make that level at Bear Stearns) and author of Opening Belle, a fictional take on a woman working in a man’s world and the the high price she pays to earn an exorbitant income. Opening Belle has been optioned for a movie and Reese Witherspoon is slated to star.
Here’s a brief summary of our conversation. I encourage you to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below…
Sexism in the Workplace
There are places where sexism is still going on. Maureen shared some of her experiences in her recently written New York Times Op-Ed piece. Too often these stories go untold but stories like Opening Belle are shining a much needed light. Thankfully, my experience in management consulting and working at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) were quite different. Harassment was not rampant in fact, at MSO it was my job to make sure employees were trained in harassment awareness. And when there were any incidents that even came close to harassing situations, in my experience, those were dealt with immediately and with positive results.
Bottomline: You don’t have to work where you feel harassed no matter what your industry. If you don’t like something, go to HR and try to change it. If it falls on deaf ears, consider getting the advice of an employment attorney. If you’d prefer to just move, do so and take your skills, talents and contribution elsewhere because companies do exist that will value you man or woman. Listen to my podcast about Conscious Capitalism to learn about them.
Work Life Balance
The conversation also highlighted that women often avoid certain careers out of fear that they can’t do the job and have a family. Case in point, Perri mentioned that lots of women graduate from law school but very few are judges.
Is leaving the only choice to have work and a family? As described on her Amazon author’s page, Maureen “retired as a managing director after twelve years. She used her extra time to ply her four young children with fantastic stories on a more regular basis and became adept at all things action-figured, sugary, mysterious and pink.” My husband and I run our own businesses so we can both continue our careers while raising our son. It’s not always easy to manage our time and schedules but we love being the boss.
Even in corporate, my experience is that you get more control as you move up the ladder, not less. To be the boss means that you have people to delegate to and you decide when and how work gets done. Being the boss is not to be avoided if you want work life fit. I learned that valuable lesson from Bonnie Fuller and her book The Joys of Much Too Much. If you really want to be a judge but settle for another path because you think it will bring you better balance, think again. Doing the job you enjoy is the path to having the work and the life you want.
Gender in Workplace
A caller asked if the old adage holds true: “Women work hard. Men work smart.” Maureen has seen that people whether men or women have different styles of working and being effective. From my perspective, I have seen men do a better job of focusing on relationships and talking about the work they’re getting done while women tend to feel that getting the work done well is enough.
Bottomline: Perception is reality and part of doing the job well is talking about how you’re doing the job well. Make sure you have solid relationships with those who affect your career progression, salary, opportunities and communicate to them early and often about the good you’re doing. One more point that we made on the show, I’m more productive now that I’m a Mom. Perri and Maureen seconded this. I know of two different employers who told me they only hire working Moms. Moms have a sense of urgency and that makes them more efficient.
You Can Have It All Man or Woman: Here’s How…
In the greatest country in the world, our expectations of enjoying work are woefully low. We have lower and lower job satisfaction scores as a result. It’s time each and every one of us raised our standards and started to expect that we can have careers that work for our lives and lifestyles. Here’s how…
- Get clear on the ideal career for you. If a career or job isn’t a fit and you have to act like someone you’re not, either change it or change jobs. One of my clients in financial services felt she had to put on armor to succeed/survive. I supported her in Soul Search, Research and Job Search so she’s now in a much better role and organization where she can more fully be herself.
- Don’t avoid office politics. I often hear my executive coaching clients lamenting that they want to move on to somewhere where they don’t have to deal with politics. What I try to explain to them is that the best career move they can make is to be able to deal with any and all types of personalities/politics/situations. In that vein, I support them in raising awareness of their communication style and conflict style. These two areas are at the core of being successful in dealing with others – especially those we find difficult.
- Become your best boss ever. Dream of starting your own business? I just published a podcast on the subject where I share what I’ve learned as an entrepreneur. Listen and get started. It’s never too late. Read about these five inspiring female entrepreneurs who started after 50.
Maya Angelou said it well – “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”
Always follow your dreams – that’s my message. I’d so appreciate hearing your take and perspective. Weigh in with your comments.