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What’s Holding Young Women Back At Work?

What’s holding young women back at work?

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

I work with young people most days. I still think I am ‘down with the kids’ and have my finger firmly on their pulse. Until last year when I attended an assembly to speak about ‘being ready for work’.

I spoke to the 6th formers who lapped up my top tips and were curious to listen to my story from 6th form to present day. During my time there though I was surprised to hear young women freely express that they would rather work for a man than be the boss because of their fear of being disliked by other women. When I asked for a show of hands of who wanted to go to the top, the majority were male.

I am a feminist in its truest form. I believe in equality between men and woman. This leaves me wondering why some of us choose to actively avoid conflict, play small, and dodge not being liked. This got me thinking – how many young women don’t make informed choices? I wonder how many stop before reaching their true potential – allowing their minds to trick them out of it?

These sixth formers didn’t want to go for their dream job because they were in fear. They had stopped short of their deepest desires. Caroline Holt, Attitudinal Coach, and Jo Maughen, ex FTSE 100 Tax professional, now leadership and career coach call it the, ‘imposter syndrome.’ They talk about the mask we put on to please others, denying ourselves of who and what we really want in life. I have witnessed this with both my grandmothers and mother. And not surprisingly in myself. A stoic way of life that ultimately can strip us of our true desires.

What I also find interesting is that the Millenials or Generation Y (18-29year olds) young girls out perform boys at school. Generally, they read more, have more empathy, and are more organized. Researchers suggest that doing homework set by teachers is linked to better performance in maths, reading and science. Boys, it appears, spend more of their free time in the virtual world; they are 17% more likely to play collaborative online games than girls every day. All these great skills and yet when it comes to work these traits are not as important. This is when young men seem to fly leaving their female counter parts often applying for jobs that are beneath their skills set and for less money.

It’s often the bottom line, straight talking, and little connection in meetings. The skills set that were once praised are no longer needed. Women who speak out too much are labeled bossy or aggressive. Perhaps they have a lack of experience in speaking up for themselves? Maybe they weren’t taught how to be assertive without being aggressive? Either way women are expected to quickly adapt often without a compass.

Statistics show that few women will ask for a specific salary when applying for a job and a vast majority of young women avoid a promotion through fear of upsetting a co-worker. Currently, women in the UK work for 57 free days due to the pay gap.

Worryingly, the Office for National Statistics said teenage girls are less happy than boys – with their looks, family life and possessions.

Making sure we are educating and preparing all our young people for the world of work is paramount to me. Especially when we consider an epidemic of mental health issues ahead for our youngsters. They deserve to be equipped with what is expected of them and help them make that leap from education into the professional world.

Samantha Lewis

Owner and Managing Director at Academy of Sales

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