Women, CEOs and Professions

Following my daily routine, I checked my email after arriving home from class. I saw the UI Career Center sent out an invitation to their “Slice of Advice” workshop called “Why Are There So Few Women CEOs?” Immediately, I wanted to attend this program.

The title of this workshop grabbed my attention. Why are there so few women CEOs? Many of my classes from economics to Latin American literature discuss this topic. The answers vary.

One reason the United States does not have many women CEOs is due to lack of paid maternity leave. The U.S. is the only developed country in the world where the government does not offer paid maternity leave for workers. This puts pressure on women. They do not have a lot of time to spend with their newborn because of work. If they take time off, it can cause them to fall behind, thus making it more difficult for them to achieve a higher position with their employer. It would be easier for women in the U.S. to achieve C-suite, or executive positions if they and their partners were offered paid leave. For example, Finland offers a maternity leave of about 18 weeks and a paternity leave of about nine weeks.

Second, if women do not have seniority in an organization, it becomes difficult for them to work their way up. For example, in recent decades, journalism organizations (particularly newspapers) started hiring more women, people of color and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). These organizations have struggled to keep doors

A woman journalist.
A woman journalist.

open due to the rise of new technologies and the bad economy. Many news businesses have shut down or laid off employees. During the layoff process, many of the newer professionals are the first to go, and several of them are women. When women are not given a chance to earn a higher position, this does not allow them to advance.

Third, across the U.S., many public and private schools do not show women all the potential options that await them upon graduation. Women can attend college, technical schools, obtain apprenticeships or internships or join the work force. Numerous K-12 schools do not communicate all of these choices to their female students. Female students sometimes go into the world not knowing what they can do. For example, various inner city schools do not promote options for after high school to their female (and male) students. Sometimes, the schools discourage them from following their dreams if the girls want to enter a male-dominated career. While this is not an accurate representation of all schools, several of them need to make sure the girls attending know their options upon graduation, and the school should not suppress a woman from entering a field.

Lastly, gender bias still exists in many workplaces. Employers treat males better than females in work benefits and pay. People need to condemn this gender bias and those causing it need to be called out.

After attending “Why Are There So Few Female CEOs,” I learned different ways that women can promote themselves in the workplace. Morgan Hanson, the residence life coordinator of Theophilus Tower, and Nicole Campbell, the career advising specialist spoke at the event.

The first item Hanson presented was to take a risk. She said women should consider applying for a job even if they only meet some of the qualifications. Campbell said women can identify a similar skill set or relevant experience in their resume and cover letter when applying for the job. Women should highlight accomplishments, she said. Women can increase their

Campbell and Hanson at the workshop.
Campbell and Hanson at the workshop.

chances of moving up the ladder in a company when they talk about accomplishments in an interview.

Campbell talked about speaking up. She said women tend to be uncomfortable self-promoting and are more likely to attribute success to exterior factors. Campbell said it is good to share something you did well with your supervisor because they are not always around to hear about your work. When I worked in a bilingual summer school program two years ago, my supervisor always came to our classrooms to talk with the teachers and para educators. This gave me face-to-face time with her which in turn helped our relationship grow.

Next, Hanson and Campbell gave advice on finding a mentor. They said the mentor should be someone accessible to you and in a relevant career. Campbell and Hanson said the benefits of mentorship include help with career goals and social support. Mentors can also be used as later references, they said.

The presenters discussed salary. Women are much less likely to negotiate salaries, Hanson said. She said research shows that the pay gap between new male and female physicians has significantly increased in the last decade by a $16,000 difference. Campbell said to wait until after you have a job offer before negotiating, and to consider the whole package, like benefits. You could also ask for a raise after a six month performance review, she said.

Hanson and Campbell concluded their workshop with three main points: educate yourself, speak up and help others.

Hanson and Campbell discussing salary.
Hanson and Campbell discussing salary.

While Campbell and Hanson offered strategic ways of moving up the ladder in the workplace, gender bias and prejudices are still major issues. In order for women to be able to have more opportunities to achieve C-Suite positions, the U.S. needs to implement a paid maternity leave program for all working women, schools should expose girls to multiple career paths and employers practicing prejudice and gender bias must face legal consequences.

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