Working Women

"The majority of women work in a small number of occupations, particularly in occupations in which the workers are predominantly women. Men work primarily in occupations that are predominantly male, although the number of occupations is larger."

The door has been unlocked. Business executives are waiting for working women to turn the knob, open the door, and enter. Many women are doing just that. The majority of us, however, are still outside. We're waiting for someone to open the door, take us by the hand, and lead us through. When it doesn't work that way, we decide we are unqualified, and accept the corresponding pay level.

In many industrialized countries, business executives divide their female applicants into two groups, career girls and regular girls. Career girls are trained for management and decision-making positions. They are promoted and paid accordingly. Regular girls, also called office ladies, are corralled into low-paying jobs as they await marriage and family. This convenient classification method allows executives to utilize the talents of their female workforce without spending any more money than necessary.

This practice may sound shocking to us in the land of equal opportunity, but I believe the phenomenon is alive and well in the United States. Frequently called the "Mommy Track," it is not blatantly advertised. We have more female role models in visible professions than ever before, yet they are still a small minority in a work force that is over 40 percent female. Most working women in this country still do the jobs of "regular girls," regardless of our potential.

Not only do many businessmen view women as either career women or regular women-we do it to ourselves. We work year after year, just like the men around us, without changing the way we see ourselves. Right now you probably know which category you fit. Regardless of whether or not you currently work, how long you have worked, or even the kind of work you do, you probably cannot shake your perception of which group you belong to. You are either a regular woman or a career woman. This self-imposed classification, more than anything else you do, will define your income during your lifetime.

We stick to this classification, believing we must choose between our careers and our personal lives. We believe our work is something we do against our families, while the men around us believe they are working for their families. We may believe we are not qualified technically to play the male games, or maybe we don't want to "sell out" and become career women. Meanwhile, the men around us simply move forward, unburdened by these stereotypes and decisions we impose upon ourselves.

Others of us consider ourselves career women because we are in management. We have moved along in our career path and now supervise a group of women. We take our work very seriously, unaware that we are perceived as regular women by male executives, because we are surrounded by females, and our jobs are considered expenses. Our pay remains much lower than that of men at our same corporate level. Our opportunities are much more limited.

I suggest that you can and should pull yourself out of these classifications altogether. You are yourself, unique and unlike any other human who has ever lived. Your approach to work, your commitment to your career, and the skills you offer are unique. You can succeed at your work without any such classification. Without it, you can enjoy opportunities and income that currently seem beyond your reach. Without it, you can be free to develop new potential.


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