To say that women have equal opportunities in the workplace is misguided and irresponsible. The 79 cents to every white man's dollar is misleading. The number depends on the color of skin. Hispanic women make 55 cents per dollar. African American women make 60 cents per white man's dollar.
For gender parity to become a reality, we need solutions. We need less talk about whether the inequality is real. The talk alone is a distraction from progress. This isn't a just a political fight. It's a human necessity to give all people--men and women--no matter their race access to equal pay for the same work and access to opportunities. Certainly, there are unconscious biases we all face that interfere with gender parity becoming a reality. That, however, is a subject for another time.
This article's focus is on what women can do to position themselves to have a fulfilling career despite the rhetoric. To counter my male biases, I interviewed Lisa Skeete Tatum, founder, and CEO, of Landit. Tatum and I discussed tactical actions women can take to have a fulfilling career.
Landit is a technology platform that helps women increase their success and engagement levels at work. Landit accomplishes this by created a custom playbook that's suited to each women's situation. Tatum and her team equip women to wholly own their career path and success on their terms.
Career Inflection Points
According to Tatum, when women reach an inflection point--a time in one's career where women feel stuck or in transition--it's not because of skill issues. In this time of change, most women are unsure where to start to get what they want from their work.
Explains Tatum about this inflection point: "Women are asking, 'How do I connect with the tools, resources, people, and [use my knowledge?]'" It's a matter of access to these needs.
Solutions to Having a Desirable, Fulfilling Career
I specifically asked Lisa Skeete Tatum what women could do to have a desirable, fulfilling career, especially when they're at the inflection point.
- Get a sponsor. Women aren't part of the network at work. Sponsorship by a man or woman who knows how the organization works and has connections is essential. The sponsor will help the woman navigate the organizational landscape. A good sponsor "helps women see what's possible," shares Tatum.
- Talk about successes. "Women notoriously undersell themselves," says Tatum. Women need to learn to talk about their successes and how to frame them. The key is to avoid sounding like a braggart. Instead, focus confidently on the factors that lead to the success. Avoid sounding like the success was due to external factors: luck, easy win, the client was ready, etc.
- Build your board of advisors. Cultivate relationships within the organization and outside. Your board of advisors can help you see your strengths and weaknesses. Tatum advocates that women need to know have the "right ask of the right person at the right cadence."
- Have a coach. If you're noticing a relational theme in Tatum's solutions, you're on to something. Anyone--male or female--needs to have a strong network of colleagues. A coach can be a critical relationship when it comes to learning more deeply about yourself, your blind spots and biases. Tatum reminds women that coaches aren't just for executives anymore.
- Keep track of your accomplishments. When you update your CV or résumé, you don't want to suffer from LIFO--last in first out, says Tatum. Another way of framing this is recency bias. We give more credit to events that happened last month compared to those that happened six months ago.
- Avoid too many "housekeeping projects." Don't be the first person to analyze the spreadsheet for insights. Go for the big, visible projects, too, says Tatum. Being a team player is important. So, too, is getting the exposure and experience necessary for your career aspirations.
What's key for women in today's workplace is to have access to opportunities. This is best facilitated through partnerships. Women don't need to suffer in silence. We all can play a part in bringing parity to pay and opportunities within the workplace. As the cliché goes, change starts with ourselves.