Careers: Climbing That Ladder
By Sandra Fletcher
For many, many years women fought to get paid the same amount as their male counterparts, for doing the same work, or work of equal value. Now that practice is not only expected but also the law. Women fought for this right, paving the way for other women to now become managers, supervisors, executives and leaders.
Why is it that women are still often marching uphill, and finding that full achievement of career goals can still be more difficult for women than for men? It turns out that traditional roles for women in all cultures can play a big part in how they get ahead in business. Women, because of the fact that they are the ones that have the babies, are given whole sets of expectations at home that men will never have. Sexism at work and child rearing duties at home are the most common barriers for women in the workplace. For women who are newcomers to Canada, this situation can be made more difficult by not being able to fully translate your skills to the Canadian Workplace.
Changes to these barriers have to be accompanied by changes in both how women are viewed in the workplace and how women behave in their daily lives. These changes must take place both in males and females. Men must learn to give more and expect less at home, as well as play fair at the workplace. Women must overcome guilt at demanding more child care time from their spouses, and must reinforce their self-respect – in demanding they be paid what they are worth, or, at least, what the man next to them is earning.
The strategy to overcome this first barrier of getting ahead at work is women networking and mentoring each other.
For those women just entering the work force, or attempting to move from middle management to upper management, they must often look to do more, push for more and demand more. Women at the top are as busy and stressed as top male executives. In addition to which, they probably feel pressed to work harder and produce more than their male counterparts and have a greater load of child rearing duties as well.
An ideal way to find a company that can help you in your quest to get ahead is to look for companies who are family friendly and women friendly. Knowing the percentage of women in upper management and on the board of directors will give you an X-ray into the thinking of any company.
Network, mentor, and work with other women leaders, if you want to progress.
Moreover, for some foreign trained professionals, knowing how your skills from your home country translate into the Canadian business environment can be difficult. There are dozens of mentoring programs available across Canada. The best way to access them is to meet with a settlement centre counselor, and discuss your ultimate career goals.
It is always easy to say that you will have to change your career goals because you have immigrated mid-career. What is hard, but worthwhile, is fighting to achieve your goals in spite of those changes. Being ambitious takes courage.
Sharing the role of caregiver
The other major barrier most women must overcome is child rearing duties at home. This is particularly tricky as in many cultures women are expected to be more committed to caring for both children and elders. Men tend to not only assume this is "women's work" but, perhaps unconsciously, use this barrier against ambitious women in the workplace.
The fact is that most men don't volunteer to share half the workload involved in caring for children or elders, so women have to ask for help, which can be difficult to do. Working, even part time, is a full time job. Taking care of a home is another one. If both spouses have full time careers, a wife can be left with what amounts to two full time jobs: work outside the home and full time house-keeping.
Don't accept that this is the way things have to be. Communicate with your partner, work out compromises and think of it as a problem you must solve (just like you would do at work!)
All of these barriers – stereotypical attitudes, transferable job skills and the child (and elder) care issues – can be overcome with hard work and determination. Ambitious women get ahead!
Sandra has specialized in Employment Services for over a decade. Her areas of expertise are Newwcomer Settlement and Privacy Practices.