Women and work.
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Women have made tremendous strides in the professions. More women than ever graduate from college and enter challenging fields like business, technology, medicine, and law. In the U.S., women earn 57% of undergraduate degrees and 62% of master’s degrees [U.S._Department_of_Education, 2012]. Nearly half of medical and law school graduates are women [Mitchell, 2012]. Despite these positive statistics, why have women in senior leadership positions declined [Sandberg and Scovell, 2013]? Why do women avoid stretch assignments and instead choose jobs that match our skill sets, or worse yet, opt-out of professional life in lieu of full-time motherhood, part-time work or volunteer work [Sandberg and Scovell, 2013]? This presentation explores the challenges today’s women internalize and provides guidance to help us manage them. Our internal challenges include risk aversion, feeling we are a fake, self-deprecating behavior and unrealistic expectations [Bronson and Merryman, 2013, Sandberg and Scovell, 2013]. Women’s risk aversion is evident in the jobs our job choices. Whereas our male counterparts will apply for assignments if there is any chance they can do it, women apply for assignments that we know we can do. When women seize a great job with great pay, we feel we are a fake and resort to self-deprecating behavior and setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves. We self-deprecate by not taking credit for our accomplishments and not billing for all the hours we work. Unrealistically, we try and achieve work-life balance, by comparing ourselves to male colleagues and stay at home mothers. The expectations for both have risen. Today’s married middle-income parents work 8.5 more hours per week than in 1979 [Economic_Policy_Institute, 2012], whereas today’s stay at home mom’s now dedicate 17 hours each week to their children, a phenomenon called intensive mothering [Bianchi, Robinson, and Milkie, 2006]. Trying to meet such unrealistic expectations has devastating effects, with women commonly accepting work assignments that allow us meet our personal obligations or leaving the workforce entirely [Mainiero and Sullivan, 2005]. This presentation will discuss some strategies for managing our challenges such as (1) how to temper our self-defense behavior, (2) outsourcing parts of our personal life and (3) trying to make the equality strides in the home that we’ve made in the workplace.