Women’s Struggles at Work
Despite important gains, women continue to face significant discrimination at work. This has been particularly true for women of color, who remain underrepresented across every level of the corporate pipeline.
Women of color continue to experience a “broken rung” barrier to promotion and advancement, a term used to describe the barriers that prevent women from moving up the corporate ladder. This is especially true at the entry-level where only 85 women are promoted for every 100 men. The gap is even larger at the C-suite, where women are only promoted to manager at a rate of about one-third of that for men.
This is a huge concern for companies, as it risks rewinding years of progress towards gender diversity. In addition, it poses a serious risk for future women leaders, who could lose their jobs due to a lack of opportunities for advancement. Creating an inclusive workplace that values all women’s contributions and experiences is critical. It is also critical to address the unique challenges faced by different groups of women. For example, Black women have experienced discrimination at work in the past and face additional challenges that arose from racial bias.
In the face of this threat, companies must do more than make an occasional commitment to advance women. They must develop processes to eliminate bias from hiring, performance reviews, and other aspects of their company culture. They must create a workplace that recognizes and celebrates the work of all women, including those of color, lesbians, and bisexuals.
Companies should set targets for hiring and promotions to address this issue. Ideally, companies should make a public commitment to increase the number of women in management roles. But they should also set clear goals, evaluate candidates, and ensure that women’s representation is equitable. This may include providing a range of employment options.
A second challenge for women of color is the lack of support from managers. Women of color are less likely than men of color to be supported by their managers. This is a painful experience because it is rooted in racism. This also means that managers make assumptions about what women do, and can judge them harshly for mistakes. It is important for companies to do a deep cultural analysis to understand why the gap exists, and how to address it.
The COVID-19 pandemic is also a major contributor to women’s struggles at work. This is particularly true for women with young children. While some cultures allow women to take paid work on the side, other cultures expect women to spend all of their energy on raising their children. This can lead to burnout and disengagement from the workplace. In some cases, women are even penalized for using flexible work arrangements. Creating a work environment that supports and encourages employees’ well-being can help retain employees.
The number of White employees who identify as allies to women of color has increased over the past year, but this has not been enough to overcome the problems facing women of color. Although women are making strides in senior leadership, the pandemic continues to have a negative impact on women.