What Every Woman Needs to Know About Work

Welcome to my second post on the Catalyst research into how people get career advancement. It’s called the Myth of the Ideal Worker; in brief it says, even if women follow all the advice and conventional wisdom to advance their careers it seems it still doesn’t produce the same results as it does for men. (By the way, if this topic interests you take a look at my posts on Career Tips for Women)

Conventional Career Wisdom

Conventional wisdom imparted to ‘high potentials’ all coalesce into 9 main points, says Catalyst. They are:

  • Actively seeks high profile assignments
  • Rubs shoulders with influential leaders
  • Communicates openly and directly about their career aspirations
  • Seeks visibility for their accomplishments
  • Lets their supervisor know of their skills and willingness to contribute
  • Continually seeks out new opportunities
  • learns the political landscape or unwritten rules of the company
  • Isn’t afraid to ask for help

The research set out to see if these strategies really do get ‘high potentials’ to the top and if they work equally well for both men and women. What they discovered was that men benefit more from following the strategies given. Even when women follow all the strategies given above they got ahead less and had less pay. Although you’ll be pleased to hear that Catalyst thought it better than doing nothing at all!

Previous research from many sources, including Catalyst has dispelled the myth that women don’t progress in either salary or status because of lack of ambition (Pipeline’s Broken Promise). Catalyst made sure to get as representative a group as possible by looking at 3,345 ‘high potentials’ with same educational achievements , no career breaks etc.

Most Effective Strategies for Women

Of all the strategies listed above, only making their achievements known and gaining access to powerful others had the greatest impact on women’s career advancement. While changing jobs worked as a tactic for men in increasing salary, it seemed to have the opposite effect for women and changing jobs did not pay off for women.

Given what we know about women’s reluctance to blow their own trumpet this is significant.

In my next post I’ll be looking at some of the assumptions which may be talking place in organisations. Is this is a classic case of the business world has been designed to suit men? To heretically paraphrase Shakespeare,

“The fault dear Brutus, lies not in ourselves but in the way the way men have organised the world….”

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Photo Credit: Faahkir Rizvi



Posted on October 25th, 2011 by

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