How often have you heard that numbers don’t lie? This is typically a phrase that is thrown around during corporate meetings and more importantly, performance review time. So, if numbers don’t lie, let’s look at some important 2010 statistics relating to women in the workplace:
Women represent 50.8% of the US population.
Women comprised 47% of the total US labor force.
The largest % of women (40.6%) worked in management, professional and related occupations.
For women, 25 years and older, those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, 72.4% were part of the workforce.
Looking at these numbers, you’d think that things are pretty rosy for the ladies in Corporate America, right? Well, these numbers don’t necessarily translate into the numbers that really matter. They are:
The average weekly full-time earnings for women were $669, 81% of men’s $824.
Only 12 Fortune 500 companies are led by women in 2011.
While numbers might not lie, they often belie facts. Given that women are technically the majority of the population and are almost equally represented in the workforce, what could possibly be a contributing factor? Based upon conversations I’ve had with my coaching clients and women at the workshops I conduct, I have a theory of my own. Namely, that women value job security more than anything; and as a result are afraid to ask for more income, promotions or recognition of their worth. The sense is that if they push the envelope, they might be a candidate for the chopping block or could be considered ungrateful – especially in this economy where the corporate speak has become that they’re a ton of highly qualified people lined up for your job. This also applies to women entrepreneurs – they don’t ask to be paid for what they’re worth because they’re afraid to lose the client.
How do you then tackle this ugly beast that holds you back from making the numbers work for you? That’s where the wonderful Little Red Riding Hood can help out. Remember how Little Red Riding Hood set out in the woods to deliver food to her ailing grandmother? Well, that’s you in your corporate career. You set out with the best intentions to have an impact and to take care of your organization. Then along comes the big bad wolf who wants to eat Little Red Riding Hood. He makes his way to the grandmother’s house and eats her to await the granddaughter. What does the big bad wolf represent then? Your fear of asking for what you want, be it money, career enrichment, promotions, project assignments and so on.
This is how you can apply 3 of Little Red Riding Hood’s tactics to truly make you the Star you want to be at work:
Unveil the wolf’s disguise. Little Red Riding Hood noticed that the wolf’s disguise as grandma had some serious flaws. Big teeth, big hands, big nose. Things that are showing up in the workplace are just like the big teeth, hands and nose that gave away the wolf. There’s normally more to the issue, i.e. you’re disguising your work problems with something that shows up holistically in your life. Go beyond the disguise and call out the truth. Do you maybe think you’re not worthy of more money? Are you afraid you can’t handle the additional responsibilities? Were you told that it’s bad for a woman to be too ambitious? Yank off the disguise and just sit with the truth. The unveiling is always the first step.
Head out into the woods on your own. Clinging on to security is what will keep you from getting to the true job satisfaction you crave. Let’s be honest – there really isn’t much job security nowadays. Plus, the notion that you risk job security when you ask for what you want is outdated. It’s what has kept women stuck in relationships and jobs they don’t like. So, like Little Red Riding Hood, grab your basket with some nourishing foods and head out into the woods on your own. Start exploring what you want your career (or life) to look like to achieve the satisfaction and recognition you want. Reach into the basket to feed that journey. The basket can hold wonderful mentors who can help you, a coach, or professional development courses. The key is to just start taking the steps.
Slay the big bad wolf. The wolf got tricked while he was asleep. Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother were freed from his belly. The belly got refilled with stones; and he drowned when he bent over to get some water from a pond. Now here’s the real fun part. Start slaying your own fears through taking them on one at a time and planning your moves strategically. Want recognition in the workplace? Look first at how you give it to others and make sure you’re walking your talk. If you’re squeaky clean in that area, tell your boss what it means to you to be recognized – not in an accusatory way, but in a way where she understands where you’re coming from. Once you’ve tackled one area, move on to the next, such as money. Do you honor your own worth? If not, look at ways in which you can before you move on to asking for your employer to make this happen for you.