Gender wage gaps. The difficult fight for equal pay. Unequal promotions and bonuses.
Where does all this stem from?
Lots of things, both internal and external.
Biases against women that seep through the entire corporate ecosystem—peers, bosses, subordinates, clients. Internal barriers such as poor negotiation skills and a need to be liked. Societal and family pressures and mindsets.
But as a working mother as well as an employer of a predominantly-women team, I have found another big reason stopping women from succeeding in the workplace.
The fact that so many women find it difficult to prioritise their careers over all their other obligations, roles and responsibilities.
Yes, children fall sick, in-laws fall sick, there are PTAs to attend—but such events happen in a man's life too. And he still manages to prioritise his career—unapologetically.
Yes, children fall sick, in-laws fall sick, there are PTAs and family functions to attend—but such events happen in a man's life too. And he still manages to prioritise his career—unapologetically. And because he has decided to do so, there is a whole ecosystem that has been built to support and help him rise in his career, taking on bigger and bigger responsibilities at his workplace, at higher and higher pay scales.
And if something does come up in his personal life that might deter him from his work, he will unapologetically answer: "Sorry, I have some important work to do." The other person might understand, might not understand. Either way, the man will go along his way and get his work done.
When will we women also become comfortable prioritising our careers over our other responsibilities?
Until then, we'll have to keep saying no to challenging assignments, no to travel, no to extended hours, no to high-pressure deadlines. And no to equal pay and promotions.
Because until we don't, we won't be able to create the ecosystem required to support this challenging journey to the top of the corporate ladder. We will need to rally the troops and have our backbone structure in place—parents, in-laws, extended family, friends, and yes, husband too. We will need to stop caring about people who don't understand, and help the people who we care about to understand. We will need to make sacrifices and compromises about being there for everyone all the time and having everything perfect. And we will need to stop feeling apologetic about it.
Because until then, we'll have to keep saying no to challenging assignments, no to travel, no to extended hours, no to high-pressure deadlines. And no to equal pay and promotions.
Will the path be easy? Of course not. There are biases to overcome, mindsets to change. But is it impossible? Not at all. A thick skin and a strong support system. Build that and you'll be halfway there on the ladder of success.