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Obstacles Women Face in the Workplace

women in the workplace

I’ll admit this up front: I’ve never really worked in a corporate environment. Before I founded Remarkable Women, I founded another small business – Old Towne Title Company, a full-service settlement company where I continue to serve as president.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to work for myself all these years. Because of that, I haven’t encountered the typical obstacles women face in the workplace – chief among these, gender bias. But not everyone has been so lucky.

Forbes contributor Bonnie Marcus writes:

I worked in corporate America for over 20 years and I personally experienced and witnessed gender bias every day. Some of it was overt, especially in the earlier years, but most of it was so subtle that it caused you to think twice about whether it was your own sensitivity to the issue. An off-color joke, exclusion from important meetings or discussions, sexual advances – these were all commonplace in the companies where I was employed.

Gender bias reveals itself in many ways, as Ms. Marcus astutely points out. And while I haven’t had direct experience with it, I’m still quite concerned that it’s even an issue in our modern world. I believe gender should not hinder us or help us in the workplace; it should just be.

According to a Rockefeller Foundation poll of 9,500 women from 19 countries (Fast Company):

  • Nearly half of the U.S. women surveyed believe men have better access to professional development and career growth opportunities.
  • More than half of U.S. women see the gender wage gap as their biggest concern, with 58 percent placing it at the top of the list.
  • The U.S. ranked second highest among countries surveyed, where 37 percent of women reported being harassed in the workplace.

How can we combat these troubling statistics? The Balance advises, “Two of the most effective tools in overcoming challenges working women face include networking and finding a mentor.” These are both topics I’ve written about before related to challenges faced by women entrepreneurs and women who mentor. You can read those blogs for more in-depth information, but here’s my quick advice:

How do you find a professional network? It usually starts with locating that one person who shares your business goals or works in your niche and is enthusiastic about helping you. Ideally, this connection will open up her entire network for you.

How do you find a mentor? If a mentor doesn’t immediately come to mind, you may need to look outside your current network and meet new people. Consider professional organizations, events, and meet-up groups. Search for these opportunities on social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

I think you’ll find that searching for these types of opportunities will actually help you become more confident in your abilities (and less worried about how your gender is affecting your workplace standing, if at all). I know that when I’ve encountered a problem, I don’t even think about the fact that it might be a gender issue; I just assume it’s not and figure out a way around it.

What obstacles have you faced in the workplace? How have you overcome them?

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