Happy International Women’s Day!
I know I’m a few days late but it’s kind of like celebrating a birthday…you get the whole birthday month, or at least a week, right? 😉
This holiday has inspired me to think about some of the major issues impacting women in the workforce (and perhaps women in general) today. From my experience, one of the most prevalent issues that I see is the lack of standing up for oneself. I can admit that I have been guilty of not standing up for myself at work, not recognizing my value and not asserting myself enough. I can also proudly say that over the last couple of years (especially since I have come into leadership positions) I have focused on getting better in these areas and have grown significantly because of it. I have gained an enormous amount of strength through the support of my husband and family and through female leaders like Sheryl Sandberg and her LEAN IN message. I am also blessed to say that the company I work for supports me tremendously and has sent me to women’s leadership training where I have learned to use my voice and negotiate for myself.
Research shows that women do not negotiate their salaries as much as men do, women tend to not speak up as much as men in meetings and women get paid approximately 83% that of a man’s salary. While many studies have been done on these issues, I can personally attest to them from my own professional experience and that of my female co-workers.
I work in IT servicing the Oil and Gas Industry and needless to say, it is a male-dominated profession. I have been very blessed in my career to work for very supportive companies and bosses that have fostered my career growth, have helped me grow and have encouraged me to lead. (Not to mention, I have worked my butt off… 🙂 ) However, even amidst all of that, as I grew into leadership roles, I noticed that I was hesitant to speak up in meetings, I didn’t feel confident in sharing my opinion and I felt very alone. As I moved up through the ranks, the amount of women in leadership positions dwindled. I also didn’t have many female mentors to lean on, if any at all.
Slowly but surely, with a strong push from my husband and my company, I have gained confidence in myself and have realized my value within the organization. I am not afraid to speak my mind, to take (calculated) risks, to negotiate on behalf of myself and my fellow female co-workers and I aim to help other women around me succeed. I have spent hours on the phone with female co-workers who were almost to the point of tears, telling me that they feel unsupported, unheard and that they feel like no one is invested in their growth. While a lot of times their feelings are just, I encourage them to look inward and at their own behavior that they’re projecting. What are they doing to get the attention they deserve in meetings and from their bosses? What are they doing when they get their salary offer or proposed level — are they renegotiating if they’re unsatisfied? What are they doing when they’re in a meeting — are they speaking up, making sure to take ownership of a part of the presentation material, or are they sitting in the corner keeping quiet? Once we discuss these things, a lot of time there is an “aha” moment. (I hope I do not sound harsh as I do realize how difficult the implementation of these behaviors can be and have been there myself.)
We must respect and value ourselves as women, employees, co-workers, members of society, moms, sisters (and any other roles we play) if we hope to get this respect back from others. We must speak up for ourselves and we need to acknowledge our value. There is an element of personal responsibility here that I believe we should own. On the other end of the spectrum, we need to encourage and support other women in their personal growth, as well as demand that corporate America and society start changing their actions regarding women’s pay and overall equality.
I feel like I have gone through a lot of (sometimes uncomfortable, emotional) important growth over the last couple of years in regards to this topic and would love to hear your own experience. If you have any questions or are looking for advice, let me know. I know that this is not an easy thing for a lot of us.
Happy Friday and have a wonderful weekend! 🙂 Thank you for reading these thoughts and remember, we are all Wonder Women.
Graphic is by: Satrun Twins Art Shop