Women Play Catch-Up Their Entire Careers

In my coaching practice, I run across a number of female professionals who are frustrated with their career progression. They feel like they’ve been committed to the company, working endless hours and doing what it takes to get the job done and then some.  A big part of the problem is, they feel like they’re trying to push through this journey on their own.

In fact, it’s not just a feeling. Studies on the progress of professional women show this to be true for so many. A recent study by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company on Women in the Workplace* was conducted among 34,000 employees, and 132 companies which employ more than 4.6 million people. This study concluded that:  “Women get less access to the people and opportunities that advance careers and are disadvantaged in many of their daily interactions.”

Leadership Pipeline Narrows for Women

The study found that, and I quote, “Women are less likely to receive the first critical promotion to manager—so far fewer end up on the path to leadership—and are less likely to be hired into more senior positions. Women also get less access to the people, input, and opportunities that accelerate careers. As a result, the higher you look in companies, the fewer women you see.”*

The data is evident. The stories are sobering.

* LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company 2016 Women in the Workplace Report

Women Often Are Playing Catch-Up Their Entire Careers

Stephanie was promoted to a senior professional level position, and was on her way up the ladder to an executive level position.  She was the only female at that level in this department.  Her boss realized that her salary was well below that of her male peers, even though the career paths had been similar and responsibilities in this role were the same. She was oblivious to the situation. Luckily, she had a boss who was not satisfied with the disparity. He advocated for her salary to be brought to an equitable level, ensuring she was compensated fairly for her work.

Stephanie is one of the lucky ones. Many women are playing catch up across their entire careers.

Women Are Missing Critical Relationships

Professional women are missing critical relationships, such as mentors, coaches, advocates and sponsors, to enable success in their careers.  There’s a lack of awareness among professionals that they need these important relationships, so they fail to seek them out. Companies also don’t realize or appreciate the importance of these relationships and don’t provide a supporting environment for these relationships to occur.

Companies Feel the Impact

Why does this matter?

The impact to companies falls right to the bottom line from a number of challenges that result:

  • Attrition – professionals don’t feel supported and, especially if they’re diverse, don’t see themselves with future opportunities, as they see few leaders or others moving up that look like them. Millennials have lower levels of patience when career opportunities are not apparent and are likely to move on, leaving gaps in your potential pipeline.
  • Business results are lackluster because of ill-prepared leaders.
  • Lack of inclusion because the primarily visible talent are the ones that look like the leaders already at the top. Humans’ natural tendency is to gravitate to people with similarities.
  • The impact for professionals results in frustration from lack of opportunities, causing them to more actively look outside. They fail to reach their full potential or feel that the talents and commitment to the company are truly valued. Lack of advancement means loss of income potential over their lifetime, which has significant personal implications.

Navigating the Corporate Environment

Career success and talent development takes a team approach beyond the traditional manager/employee relationships. The corporate environment is complex, with formal and informal processes and networks, and plenty of office politics. You need people in your network to help you navigate this environment.

Download my free guide 5 Ways To Breathe New Life Into Your Career to avoid the mistakes women make in navigating the corporate environment.


She’s a woman on a mission, prepped and ready to help you create resilient leaders and a workplace that is poised to succeed. Having weathered her fair share of corporate and career crises of all sizes, Vivian Blade MBA, MBB, PMP, is a global leadership expert and thought leader who equips leaders with the resilience that inspires teams to recover quickly in the face of ongoing disruption and thrive in spite of insurmountable odds.

Vivian empowers leaders and organizations as a frequent keynote speaker for association conferences and in delivering transformative leadership development programs, executive coaching and consulting for corporations.

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