Why women need to proactively manage their careers

Career change coach Wellington

The job market is changing at an unprecedented rate - as I wrote in last month’s blog - and most affected will be those in mid-career, aged 30-55 years.

In this rapidly changing environment it’s more important than ever for people to consciously manage their career development to stay current and keep their options open – but it’s particularly important for women.

Why? Because if you are a woman, the odds are stacked against you:

  • You are less likely than your male counterparts to get employer-funded training (men are 27% more likely to receive it), and if you work in the private sector or are over 55, the odds are even less favourable.
  • You are likely to get paid less than your male counterparts. The pay gap between men and women overall in New Zealand is 11.8% ­– worse still in the public sector where the gap is 14% on average and as much as 39% at its widest.

Of course, there are no laws or policies that suggest this should be the case. You won’t find an employer’s manual that stipulates “thou shalt offer more training to men and pay women less for doing the same work”.

So why the inequalities?  According to the Ministry for Women, unconscious bias is a key contributor. My research also found that unconscious bias was one of the main barriers to women reaching senior leadership positions.

Given the prevalence of unconscious bias, women need to not only be aware of its existence and potential impact, but also to be more vigilant and proactive about managing their careers because, left to fate, the odds are not great.

What can you do to proactively manage your career?

  • Be aware of your rights at work and, if necessary, get help to build your confidence and assertiveness skills so that you feel able to ask for what you are entitled to – such as flexible work options or professional development funding.
  • Be clear about your career goals and development needs so that you can identify and take advantage of opportunities. The more clear you are about where you are heading, the more likely you will be to assert yourself.
  • Develop your understanding of unconscious bias so that you can recognise when it may be occurring and also be mindful about your own potentially career limiting biases.
  • Engage a career development coach to help you get clarity, work through any barriers – your own personal barriers and those inadvertently imposed by others – and develop an action plan to get you where you want to be.

Lucy Sanderson-Gammon, MBA, is a career development coach, trainer and consultant. She helps mid-career professionals who have fallen out of love with their jobs to find work that is meaningful to them, or to rekindle the love of their current career and make it work. Find out more about Lucy's coaching services here.