This article is the first in a series of articles spotlighting women in the workplace, commemorating National Women's History Month 2014.
According to the Department of Labor, roughly 70% of all women in the U.S. work. But what are some of the challenges that women face today in the workplace? And how can organizations help the ever evolving working mother? We spoke with Susan Pyles about women in the workplace.
Challenges Women Today Face in the Workplace
According to Pyles, there are two main challenges that women face today. First is the need women have to work harder or longer to achieve the same level or position as their male counterparts.
“I think the world of business has been a man’s world for a long time and even though men are open and receptive, I think some men are more comfortable interacting and doing business with their peers,” says Pyles. “When women are thrown into the mix, it challenges the dynamic and it makes things more complicated.”
Even though at times the blending and integration of men and women can be awkward, women have to be able to not only show that they are capable, but both have to show that they can find that balance between meeting each other half way and making everyone feel comfortable. But it can still be a challenge for women to find their place.
Pyles certainly doesn’t think anyone is trying to oppress women, but she gave a great example of what it’s like to mix men and women together at work.
“It’s no different than when you see a bunch of women at the playground having a play date and there is a man with his child. The women are all talking together but are they including the man? No. It’s not because they don’t like him, it’s because they don’t know what to say. To women, it feels unnatural and it’s the same with men in the boardroom. Men and women just don’t know what to do with it, so we avoid it,” says Pyles.
The second challenge women face today in the workplace is childcare. Today, women are still predominantly a family’s care giver.
“Even if the woman has a higher level position, there is still that challenge of balancing. Society today still expects women to be a good mother, regardless of their work situation, but I don’t think business communities necessarily accommodate that,” says Pyles.
Finding Work/Life Balance
Many women accomplish a lot in a day. But they accomplish it in what Pyles refers to as a ‘disjointed’ day.
“Instead of the traditional way of doing your work during designated work hours and then having your personal life, maybe it’s more of when you put the kids to bed and then you do emails or maybe you leave in the middle of the day to go to a school event and then go back to work,” says Pyles.
It’s all about balancing instead of separating both your work and home life and actually blending the two.
“Companies are also doing a better job of allowing women to find ways to at least go to a child’s school event or to be able to pick up their child at a specified time of day,” says Pyles.
A lot of women are also getting support informally through other women and swapping different techniques that have worked for each other.
Trends Among Women in the Workplace
“Through different studies on emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills, it’s showing that women are stronger leaders then men in some cases,” says Pyles.
Business is a powerful knowledge to have to be successful, but it also takes relations, inspiring and motivating people. This is becoming more of a critical factor for why women are outperforming men in their effectiveness because that’s some of their natural strength and skills.
Pyles says women also have more advanced degrees now than they did 15 years ago. This leads to fewer traditional stay at home moms.
“Because of formal education, women are getting married later in life and are used to having the feeling of working and having their own money. Stay at home moms are finding ways to work from home or do a home business or freelance,” says Pyles.
Women are constantly changing in today’s society. Organizations have to be able to support women in their new roles. By giving more support, women will not only be less stressed but will be more efficient and productive in their personal and work life.
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