Making Career Improvements Happen as a Woman

Believe it or not, ensuring you can improve your career starts before you get the job. The top three things women should look for when searching for a future employer are opportunities for career progression, competitive wages, and flexible work arrangements. Of course, even if you already have a job, it’s never too late for a job change or negotiation.

Career Progression

If you’re on the job hunt, during the interview you should ask about the culture in the office and opportunities for advancement within the company. The point of a job interview is for the company to see if you’ll be a good candidate for the job, but it’s also for you to determine if the company will be a good fit for your career. Ask about the typical career path and timeline for the position to which you’re applying.

Whether you’re just starting out or you already have a job, it’s important to remember to speak up and be assertive. Don’t blend in meetings. Instead, be active and share ideas. If you have a good idea, don’t sit on it; share it with your supervisor. Be sure to communicate what you can do for the company. If you want a raise or promotion, tell someone.

Competitive Wages

On average, women in the United States make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, and when women enter traditionally male-dominated careers, they make even less. Before you go into an interview, know what you’re worth based on your education, skills, and experience. Research what the average pay is nationally and regionally for the position to which you’re applying, and if you feel the salary offer is lower than it should be, speak up. Present the numbers and ask for more.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Some people argue that women make certain life choices that lead to their pay gap, which is absurd. Some women genuinely choose to stay home or cut back their hours after they have children. However, some women don’t have a choice. Instead, they’re forced to cut back their hours or leave the workforce because they can’t afford childcare, or they struggle to find a full-time job that offers any flexibility for a work-home balance.

Furthermore, women face a “motherhood penalty.” Women with children are less likely to be hired for jobs once they have children and are likely to be paid less than male counterparts. However, men actually benefit from having children when it comes to job prospects and pay increases. So while some women make a decision to stay home, other women don’t really have much of “choice.”

Look for a company with flexibility. Can you work from home if your kid’s school is closed because of snow? What if you absolutely had to bring your child to work with you in order to meet a big deadline? Are you only allotted three days of sick time for the entire year? There are companies out there that get it and that try to be as flexible as possible, especially for employees with children.

Why It Matters

If women working under gender inequality feel helpless and hopeless in their jobs, they may feel the need to cope by turning to drugs or alcohol. In fact, a study showed that gender inequality at workplaces leads to psychological distress in women, but when gender equality at the workplace is achieved, women have good mental health, and the relationships between women and men are also favorable.

To be able to successfully improve your career and stay healthy, be prepared for discrimination you may encounter, and make sure to handle it in a healthy way, as many have fallen into the trap of dangerous habits as a result. Don’t be naïve and think it doesn’t happen anymore or that it won’t happen to you. Don’t be afraid to speak up or report to HR. 

You’re entitled to the chance to grow your career. You deserve to earn a competitive salary. You should have flexible work arrangements.


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