Workplace Diversity

Another classification in the business world is that of male and female jobs. While we can point to exceptions, there are still many jobs and entire career paths that are considered "female," while others are considered "male." Women can be promoted several times and still remain in a female job track. Some fields are considered better opportunities for women than others, but male and female career paths exist in every field and nearly every company. Almost always, men and women who follow male career paths in private industry will make considerably more money than those who follow female career paths. Over the course of a lifetime, the difference in pay is staggering.

Many women who work in low-paying positions recognize that they have fewer opportunities than the men and higher-paid women around them, yet they believe the cause is their own lack of ambition or qualifications. They think "male" careers are reserved for men and career women. Other women assume that the women's movement has made its mark, and so they will receive the same opportunities as equally qualified men around them. Many businessmen believe they give their female employees opportunities to achieve that rival, or even surpass those for men. They actively strive for diversity in their workplace. Yet, the great majority of women are clustered into female job tracks, on their way up an entirely different corporate ladder than a man would follow and heading to much lower financial reward. Many working women and men fail to understand why this trend persists, in spite of the infinite talent women are bringing to the job market. Exploring the reasons for this, and how to rise above them is the subject of this book.

Many people are aware of the discrepancies between men and women in this country. We can cite study after study indicating that men far outnumber women in lucrative positions and that women often receive lower pay for the same work as men. Sexism takes many forms. If the executives of an organization agree to prevent women from holding decision-making positions, and to allocate the overwhelming majority of their payroll to men, this is a clear example of sexism. A more subtle example is a woman who feels insecure about her abilities or has never learned the unspoken rules of business, and therefore is unable to "play the game" by the rules, limiting her own possibilities. This form of sexism is probably more lethal because it is less obvious, and neither she nor her employer understand it. It is this form of sexism that I will address, the form that is within our control.

I am not suggesting that it is all our fault as women or that we should shoulder the blame. I propose that there is something we can do about it, and that we should. All women are raised with some degree of female training, which serves us well in many aspects of our lives. It serves us well in the workplace as long as we are surrounded by women, but it is not appropriate when we work with men. However, as long as you are surrounded by women, your pay will almost assuredly be lower than if you work alongside men. The high-paid women around you have learned what is more appropriate and applied it. They have either decided they are career women, or decided to let others think they are.

It has always been tough to stay in business and make a profit, and it is more so now. Computers supply us instantly with information that used to take weeks to collect. The internet can put information in the hands of millions simultaneously. Customers expect more, and they get more from the competition, both domestically and abroad. Sharp, savvy, knowledgeable people are needed like never before. Corporations in this country simply cannot afford to underemploy half their work force. Many employers are beginning to realize the potential that exists within their female ranks. Many recognize the inherent strength in a diverse workplace. Executives who are in a position to promote women's careers expect us to behave in certain ways on the job. They don't always understand why we act and react the way we do, and they don't have time to analyze it. They don't have time to train us to be career women. We need to make these changes ourselves; and we can. We are women. We are the most accommodating group of people on earth. It is time to make some accommodations for our own good. A few adaptations in our methods can change our careers.

So what are the options? We could continue to support the men around us, making their jobs easier, making them look good, helping them earn more, as most of us currently do. This cheerleading role comes naturally to many of us. Some are convinced it will lead to the job of quarterback. Others have decided that the playing field is a deadly place, and the sidelines are safer. But we have trouble paying our bills from where we are.

We could stand on the sidelines and scream "Unfair! Unfair!" even in large numbers. This may result in a few more women being "allowed" to play, much to the resentment of the rest of the team.

I propose that we learn the rules, with all their inconsistencies and nonsense, run onto the field, and join the game.

If we want to make the money associated with "men's jobs," we need to do the work that they do. This is not as difficult or as frightening as some women may think. It does not require a transformation of personality or ethics. It, however, requires some awareness.



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