by Emily Woodward, Intelligent Ink

While success means something different to each person, one thing we can all agree on is that success isn’t always easy to come by. We’ve all had those days when we feel like our end goal is out of sight, and sometimes this isn’t due to personal shortcomings. There are a variety of common issues affecting women’s career success – here are some of the most common.

Gender stereotyping

No matter how much women’s rights advance, gender stereotypes can still have a huge impact on what roles are available for women. According to studies by Catalyst, both men and women asserted that men excel at “taking charge” skills such as influencing superiors and delegating responsibility. Jeanine Prime, Ph.D., Director of Research at Catalyst, said,

It is often these ‘taking charge’ skills—the stereotypically ‘masculine’ behaviors—that are seen as prerequisites for top-level positions.

These stereotypes are rarely deliberate or malicious; often we are unaware of the way that stereotypes influence our thinking.

But while stereotypes aren’t always based in truth, they can have very real consequences that limit women’s career success. The sad reality is that supposedly feminine traits are often perceived as weak and inferior to ‘masculine’ traits, particularly when leadership positions and high profile opportunities are at stake. When stereotypes are assumed to be true, something as seemingly insignificant as gender can be the determining factor as to who is hired, who receives the promotion, or who is best suited for a task.

There are ways for companies to take active steps against stereotyping in the workplace. Practical steps to combat gender stereotyping suggested by Catalyst include:

  • Increased transparency in staff performance evaluation
  • Implementing more checks and balances to prevent stereotyping
  • Educating people in management about the influence stereotyping has in the workplace

While companies are increasingly experimenting with these suggestions, lifting the barrier of sterotyping remains a work-in-progress.

Unequal earnings

Many women work in occupations that are at least 80% female dominated – and these roles don’t tend to pay as much as male dominated roles. Employment New Zealand suggests that, alongside the detrimental impact of stereotyping, female dominated occupations tend to be undervalued compared to other jobs. The aforementioned restrictions that stereotypes place on women’s success can also prevent women from receiving promotions, meaning that women are more likely to remain in the bottom or middle of an organisation – roles which do not receive as high a pay check as the people at the top of the company.

With the Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill currently in Parliament, positive legal change could be on the horizon. The proposed Bill would update current laws regarding pay, providing a new “process and principles to guide employers and employees in making, assessing and resolving pay equity claims in bargaining.” Hopefully this Bill will be enacted and hard-working women will receive the pay they deserve.

The Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Act 2017 is another legal victory for pay equality, enacted early this year. This Act provides fair pay for care and support workers, a female dominated profession which has, until recently, been overlooked and undervalued.

Juggling roles

Being a mother isn’t easy, especially when you’re working at the same time! When things get busy, it’s easy to write off your goals as unachievable. Both at home and at work, working parents are prone to feeling burnout:  experience of exhaustion, inefficacy and detachment due to overworking.

A study from Belgium found ‘parental burnout’ to be incredibly common, especially as society veers towards ideas of independence and individuality, making parenting become a more isolating task. This is especially prevalent for women, who are often expected to be the family’s primary caregiver. Parenting is itself a full-time job, which means parenting breaks are just as important as your lunch breaks at work! When suffering from parental burnout, women are more at risk of poor mental health, including depression and addiction.

If you’re overexerting yourself in the process of trying to do everything, remember that you can say no and you can ask others for help! Business owner and mother Christina Wedgwood has some excellent tips for successfully balancing work and home in an earlier Professionelle blog post, including:

  • Seek advice from other working mothers who have been there, done that, and kept their sanity intact throughout the process.
  • Be realistic about your expectations of what can be accomplished in a day, both in your profession and your role as a mother.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people who can step in and help out when you feel like you’re running on low battery.

When you make your mental wellbeing your top priority, you will be better equipped to work efficiently and best serve your family.

So many obstacles… how can I succeed?!

While at times it may seem as though the odds are stacked against you, career success is always within reach! Organisations like Professionelle are dedicated to seeing women further their careers and make senior professional women the new norm. Through ongoing research, tailored advice, and organising seminars, women are able to network, receive advice, and support each other through all work-related difficulties. That was certainly what Professionelle strove to do at the recent interactive seminar held with its event partner ASB, a practical session all about achieving career success through the PIE formula.



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