Archive for women in the workforce

Women must learn to negotiate

In Australia, women earn on average 84 cents for every dollar earned by men.  This figure has remained unchanged for the entire decade.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that the average weekly ordinary time earnings for full-time adult women was less than for men in all industries. The largest difference between the earnings of full-time adult males and females occurred in the finance and insurance industry, with female earnings approximately two-thirds of male earnings (66 per cent). The difference in earnings was smallest in government administration and defence (the average earnings of full-time adult females were 91 per cent of full-time adult males).

So, it seems that negotiating pay packages is something that women, regardless of level, fail to do as successfully as men.

One way to overcome this is to approach the task armed with the relevant research.  Know all the statistics about pay scales in your industry by skill or functional level.  Most importantly, find out all the possible components of the package that you might be offered.  My experience is that women do not understand what they might ask for during a pay negotiation.  It is important to use your research information to argue logically for a greater pay increase.

A female friend of mine worked in a large multi-national organisation that was undergoing restructuring due to an economic downturn (yes, it’s happened before!).  The CEO of the organisation had addressed all the senior executives and explained this situation and that salary increases would be small for the next year.

All the participants agreed to this approach while they were in the meeting.  However, the women later found out that all of the men had negotiated a salary increase equal to that of the previous year, while they had accepted the lower level of increase.

If you are taking a new job, remember, you get one chance to negotiate your starting package.  All other salary reviews will commence from there – so it is worthwhile getting it right.

This process is also applicable to people who work part-time, on contract or on a casual basis.  Often people, particularly women who work part-time, are unjustly perceived to be less serious about their careers.  Unfortunately, many organisations still maintain the thinking that performance is to be measured in ‘face hours’, rather than in terms of outcomes and outputs.  Don’t let that stop you getting what you’re worth!

In my book, SelfScape: Success through balance, I provide many tips and techniques for determining your personal value proposition and then getting what you’re worth.


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Breaking through the glass ceiling

New research from the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) shows the number of women on corporate boards and in top management positions has fallen.

The survey shows that about 10 per cent of executive managers in Australia’s top 200 companies are women.

That is down from 12 per cent in 2006.

EOWA’s Director, Anna McPhee says that when only half of ASX200 companies have at least one woman in the executive management team compared to 85 per cent in the United States, it is critical for Australian businesses to question their recruitment, promotion and talent development practices, from entry level to the executive floor.

Disappointingly, the 2008 Census reveals that across all indicators, the proportion of women to men on corporate boards and in executive leadership roles has declined since 2006. On these measures, Australia has now fallen behind the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Some interesting statistics from the survey include:

  • women chair only four boards and hold only 8.3 per cent of board directorships, down from 8.7 per cent in 2006.
  • women hold four CEO positions and only 10.7 per cent of executive management positions were held by women in 2008, compared to 12 per cent in 2006.
  • women hold only 5.9 per cent of senior line management positions that have profit and loss or direct client service accountability, suggesting that these types of roles, which are considered core to business performance, remain out of reach for many women.
  • The 2008 result compares with 14.8 per cent in the 2007 United States Census of Fortune 500 companies; 14.3 per cent in the 2008 Census of JSE-listed companies in South Africa; 11.0 per cent in the 2007 UK FTSE 100; 10.2 per cent reported in 2007 for publicly traded companies in the Canadian FP500; and 8.7 per cent in the 2008 Census of the NZSX Top 100.
  • 49 per cent of ASX200 companies have at least one woman Board Director. This is almost unchanged from 50 per cent in 2006, 50.3 per cent in 2004 and 51.5 per cent in 2003, however the overall trend is slightly downwards. In the United States the comparable figure is 88.2 per cent, in South Africa 62.4 per cent, in Canada 52.8 per cent, in New Zealand 40 per cent and the UK 76 per cent.
  • Industry groups with the highest percentage of women board directors were insurance, retailing, banks, consumer services, consumer durables, apparel, and telecommunications services.

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Less help for mother

The Equal opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency says that “One in 6 women reported feeling rushed in 1974.   Seven out of 8 felt life had become more frantic in 1997.”  Here’s another reason why…

An American study, published in late 2006, reveals that women today have much less help with childrearing and household chores than in generations past.

Analysing US Census data from 1880 to 2000, researchers Susan E. Short and Frances K. Goldscheider and Berna M. Torr  examined who lived in the homes of mothers with children five years old or younger.

In the late 19th century, nearly 50 percent of mothers with young children lived with another female who might help carry the load. By the end of the 20th century, the figure was down to about 20 percent.
By looking at the data another way, the researchers found an even more dramatic shift—the actual availability of any females who might live in a house.

In 1880, 24 percent of mothers lived with a female age 10 or older who was not attending school or employed outside the home and was, at least in theory, available to help. By 2000, that number was 5 percent.

This work is particularly interesting, as research on changes in women’s parenting has focused primarily on their increased likelihood of combining parenthood with paid employment, exploring the pressures that result from this “second shift” or “double burden.”

Less Help for Mother focuses instead on the likely reduction in the help that mothers of small children have received as declines both in fertility and the coresidence of nonnuclear adults have reduced the number of other women in the household.

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Motherhood shouldn’t carry a career penalty

A survey out of Cambridge University suggests that a growing numbers of people are concerned about the impact of working mothers on family life.

Researchers compared results of social attitude polls from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s and found that in 1998, 51 per cent of women and 45.9 per cent of men believed family life would not suffer if a woman went to work.

This had fallen to 46 per cent of women and 42 per cent of men in 2002, amid “growing sympathy” for the old-fashioned view that a woman’s place was in the home.

It seems that the idea that support for women taking an equal role in the workplace is a myth.  Instead, people’s perceptions are that women’s changing role is having costs for both the women and the family.

While it may be a case of the super mum syndrome wearing office, it is also the case that, until workplaces start to offer true flexibility, women are caught in an endless tug of war between the home and office.  We also read endless reports about how family life, children’s school achievements, not to mention a woman’s leisure time, all suffer.  The result that many women feel that motherhood carries a penalty.

So, what is the solution?  Work and family life can coexist in harmony. I’ve seen it in my own life.  Sure, some compromises do need to be made, and you can’t have it all, all of the time.  But if we are to ensure that mothers realise the same career opportunities that fathers do, we need a seismic shift in attitudes – and that means flexible work options.�

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Barbie – the new millennium worker

Here’s someone who could be the perfect model for new millennium workers – Barbie.

You have to admire a woman who has expanded her career portfolio almost as much as her wardrobe!

Over the years, Barbie has undergone more than 500 professional career transitions. In what appear to be effortless moves, her official careers have included: fashion designer, flight attendant, rock star, astronaut, police officer, arctic explorer, gymnast, veterinarian, nurse, doctor, ballerina, dentist and aerobics instructor.

In fact, Barbie has starred in just about every conceivable profession including, most recently, as a new member of the Star Trek crew.

Barbie also appears to be financially independent. She owns her own sports car, Corvette, Mustang, moto rhome, speedboat, horses and houses. Let’s face it, this doll has a far more exciting life than most of us and has the work/life balance trapezium licked. She skis, surfs, rollerblades, rides horseback, plays volleyball, scuba dives, dances, ice skates, goes mountain biking and excels at gymnastics.

When Barbie is not networking with her working mates or working out, she goes to the movies, gives dinner parties, does the shopping, and even makes her own clothes, with her eponymous CD-ROM designer software.

Somehow Barbie made it all look so easy. Always meticulously well-dressed and accessorised, Dream House sparkling, solid relationship with Ken, Barbie never looks stressed from interviewing caterers, examining fifty fabric swatches, liaising with travel agents or researching landscaping techniques. And not a single annual planner, life coach or self help book in sight!

I’m with the bumper sticker: “I want to be like Barbie, that lucky bitch has everything.” 

I just hope Mattel continues to encourage Barbie to ‘transition’ her career.  How about politician Barbie with a contrite Ken and a best selling memoir?  Or Telemarketer Barbie with headset and cubicle?  The possibilities are endless – and that’s the whole point of life.

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Male dominated workforce costs us

Restricting women’s job opportunities costs the Asia Pacific region up to $47 billion each year.

This startling figure was revealed in a report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, released last year, which also suggests that, as a nation’s female employment rate rises, so does its GDP.

With that in mind, Australia’s industries have a golden opportunity to increase our productivity by increasing the participation rate of women.

The “glass ceiling” (where women feel they have to work harder than male colleagues to achieve success) and the “old boys club” (with its informal male networking) contributes to the perceived or real exclusion of women from many high performance job opportunities.

So, what can we do to turn the tide?

I’m a strong advocate of providing women with the skills to succeed in a male-dominated working environment.  Some of those skills are:

  1. Negotiation. Women employees across Australia’s economy earn just 83 cents for every dollar their male counterpart earns, so clearly, women can benefit from enhanced skills to enable them to negotiate salary packages and working conditions.
  2. Self-promotion. Women often take the modest approach where they believe they will be rewarded for good work without self-promotion. Instead, they need to learn to not just “stand there” but “stand out”.
  3. Work/life balance. The fast pace of life has become frantic for many women. We need to provide skills and training to help women gain and maintain work/life balance.

Is all this effort designed to get women into the workforce just for the sake of getting women into the workforce?

As the UN study shows, women are extremely valuable contributors to economic growth. As we confront rapidly changing patterns of paid work opportunities and work time arrangements, it is often those companies and industries perceived to care about the “people” aspect of business – such as work/life issues – that attract and retain the best talent.

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Women on top for leadership roles

A new Australian study has found that women are more suited to senior executive and management roles.

Researchers at Peter Berry Consultancy surveyed more than 1,800 Australian male and female executives and managers, using the Hogan Assessment System to rate the leaders in eight profile areas known to contribute to successful business leadership: strategic drive; risk taking; people skills; emotional stability; hot buttons; innovation; control and command; and bottom line dollars.

According to the report, Female leadership in Australia: What does it look like and how does it differ from their male counterparts?, in both groups of leaders, females scored highest in five key areas, while males scored higher in two areas and scores were even in one.

The key findings include:

  • Female executives scored higher than males for being ambitious, bold, mischievous, colourful and imaginative;
  • Males scored higher for commerce. “For men, money rules. Males measured success in financial terms. Females are driven by motivations other than money,” the report says;
  • Female executives also scored higher in the area of people skills for their sociability, interpersonal sensitivity and affiliation, but lower for being reserved;
  • Females come up in top when it comes to building emotional connections, trust and loyalty with others, the report says, making them a better choice than male executives for organisations that want people to feel valued; and
  • Males are out in front when it comes to control and command.

The report adds: “If you are looking for hard nosed, ‘take no prisoners’ performance, then males have the stronger profile… Males have scored higher on ‘control and command’ and ‘bottom line dollars’. Because they dominate executive positions, these two factors will set the tone of the culture for the whole of the organisation.”

So, what do you think?

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