Q: I am a professional female. I consider myself competent and ambitious. I am looking for a position of responsibility. It seems that most of those jobs are held and hired by men. The result is, more men. How do I access those roles when it seems really impossible? (BC, email).
A: It may seem impossible as you mention – maybe a mix of perception and reality explains the way responsibility roles are filled, writes Ines Gonzalez, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers
Men may hire men (not always). It can be called gender discrimination or just human nature. Some may realise they are doing it, and some may not. The truth is that unconscious bias exists.
There are social stereotypes about particular groups of people that we all have, and we are not even aware of them. We tend to hire people we like and who are similar to us. This pattern repeats itself many times without conscious awareness.
The reality is that a higher percentage of men hold positions of responsibility in the private and public sectors. I understand things are changing and moving in favour of more female leaders, but there is a lot more work to be done.
The other interesting area to explore is perception. Some female candidates may think: “we can’t get there; it’s a boys’ club. Why bother? There is nothing I can do.”
The thought that you have to work a lot harder to accomplish the same recognition can be exhausting. I would say I empathise with all of that but also, as an excuse, it is as good as it gets.
So, what is the answer? What can we do about it?
The way to break this vicious circle is to keep applying to all those positions of responsibility. Yes, all those that feel too big, or bring forth your feelings of “I am not good enough”. Here it is impostor syndrome sneaking in again.
Companies are expecting you to grow in the role, to stretch your knowledge and experience. Research is clear on this: we are not helping the situation because we are not pushing enough in the right direction. Women apply for fewer roles than men. Women tend to take expectations of a role description literally.
We feel we need to tick all the boxes before applying. And if you do, you are probably overqualified. This mentality is not serving us. It is true that there are elements we cannot control – but we can control whether or not we apply for positions.
There is more bad news. Recruiters tend to open men’s LinkedIn profiles more often. Female candidates need to start making a lot more noise online to showcase their skills and availability.
But there is some good news as well. Women are more likely to be employed in senior roles than male after they apply. That is the key, applying: and following up on those leads.
I recently came across a very detailed job description, with a great list of requirements and responsibilities. To my surprise at the very end they added: “we understand that this is not a typical job, but we encourage you to apply even if you don’t tick every single box.”
It cannot get any clearer than that. They are begging you to apply. So please do.
Ines Gonzalez is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers.
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