Sexual harassment remains a big problem in the office, as well as other deeply ingrained prejudices.
There have been great strides over the years, but women are still lagging professionally behind their male counterparts.
This is according to a survey conducted by executive life coach Jason Bernic who interviewed over 100 working women to discover the challenges they face in the workplace.
A lot of work needs to be done to remove the innate bias against women and, most shocking of all, is the continued sexual harassment women are faced with on a day-to-day basis.
“When it comes to equality in business, we have come a long way from the days when women were limited to being cleaners, nurses, secretaries and personal assistants,” Jason says. “Nowadays, many women have broken through the glass ceiling, holding powerful positions in large organisations. However, it is a hard-won victory for most and comes at a cost for women who constantly juggle their roles as businesswomen, wives, and mothers.”
Many women said they have had to deal with ongoing prejudices, have been overlooked for promotions, paid lower salaries than their male colleagues, and been excluded from the “boys club”.
Women also have to work extra hard to compete with men in the workplace to achieve equal status and, even then, they feel like they are not being taken seriously in their jobs and are often side-lined in favour of a male co-worker.
“The results of the interviews were extremely interesting and some of the more worrying findings include the fact that sexual harassment – either subtle and underhanded or brazen and obvious – is still occurring in the workplace,” Jason says.
“Some women wear fake wedding rings to try to protect themselves from unwanted advances. Many women commented on their feelings of anger and frustration at being openly flirted with by male colleagues, being called babe or sweetie pie, having their bottoms patted ‘playfully’ as they walk past, having to listen to sexist jokes, and so many other inappropriate acts and uses of language.”
Biology still looms large and many women said they struggled to balance their work life with their roles as mothers and nurturers.
“Nearly all of the women I interviewed said the challenge of juggling being a working professional and a mother was a huge concern,” Jason says.
“For women who have not yet started their families, there is a worry that taking time off for maternity leave will result in them losing their hard-won footing within the organisation and being seen as obsolete – possibly even replaced.
“For this reason, many working women are delaying starting a family or adding to their family. And once they do make this leap, then comes the years of trying to juggle the responsibilities of motherhood and work – with women agreeing that they must work as if they are not a mom, and mother as if they don’t have a job or business.”
And women are not always kind and supportive to each other, Jason discovered.
“Another issue that came up in the interviews is competitiveness and rivalry in the workplace between women who sometimes feel threatened by their female co-workers – particularly those that do not have to consider the work/parent juggling act.”
What should women do?
It’s important to know your worth and value within the workplace and to not allow anyone to compromise this or have you doubting yourself, Jason says.
“Don’t lean on your biology as an excuse or expect it to secure you any favour. Rather know who you are and what you are capable of – recognise your superpower.”
It’s also advisable to set clear boundaries and articulate them.
“Know what it is you want in the end and set professional goals that align with your personal ones. Is it status, happiness, freedom, financial security, recognition or perhaps self-actualisation?
“Be kinder to yourself and to other women – both in the workplace and in your life in general,” he adds.
And don’t ignore bad and inappropriate behaviour – call it out.
“Don’t feel you must shut up and accept situations that make you uncomfortable. This links back to knowing your worth, setting boundaries and being kinder to yourself.”
Jason believes the old-school culture is starting to shift as more and more women enter the workforce and occupy key roles within businesses, and there’s no reason why women can’t have it all.