Issues Related to Women

Women have made great progress in many career fields, and many more employers, managers, professionals, and other workers in responsible positions are women than ever before. Even so, some employers and some career areas present barriers to women that are different than for men.

Despite the fact that the numbers of women in the workforce have increased rapidly, employers still imagine or experience problems. Here are some comments expressed in a survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management:

"Working women with children have difficulties finding adequate child care in our area. Time off and absenteeism are big issues for our working mothers."

"Gaining coworker acceptance of women in nontraditional roles is a serious problem. Many of our executives are uncertain how to manage women."

"We have more women managers, but few women officers, and none on the board of directors. The glass ceiling is a reality."

Child Care

Unlike women, men are not likely to be asked about their child care issues prior to being hired and are far less likely to experience sexual harassment or gender-related discrimination or prejudice. Interestingly enough, women employers are often just as concerned as male employers are about a woman's family status. Employers of both genders assume that a woman is more likely to have child-related problems and want to be certain that these problems will not become a work-related problem.

A Harvard Business Review study documented that "on average, working mothers put in an 84-hour work week between their homes and their jobs; working fathers put in 72 hours, and married people with no children put in 50." Those numbers are staggering: A mother essentially holds down two full-time jobs. In addition, the care of elderly parents generally falls on the shoulders of women in our country. For women with or likely to have children or elderly parents, the number one task is to assure the interviewer that they don't intend to abandon their families but do intend to devote the necessary time to the job.

Again, handling questions about child care is simply a matter of turning the situation into a positive. Why not present your resourceful nature by giving an example of how you secured reliable child care? Or illustrate your management skills by describing how you handled work responsibilities when your child was ill and you needed to be at home. Be prepared to back up your loyalty claims with actual numbers of days missed from previous jobs.

Don't make the mistake of assuming that just because a woman interviews you, you don't need to bring up the child care issue. Even though she may be in the same boat herself, empathy rarely plays a role in landing you a position in a competitive job market. An interviewer's main focus is hiring someone who can do the jobregardless of whether they are a man or a woman.

Status Issues

It seems almost laughable that with the number of women in today's workplace, some interviewers would still be uncertain how to manage women. However, sensational headlines of sexual harassment and discrimination have trickled down to all levels of an organization. According to Carol Price, an educator and lecturer with Career Track who specializes in giving power presentations for women, you should begin establishing your equal status the second you walk in the room. "Once you do that, I really believe gender issues go away," she says.

So how do you "establish equal status" without appearing like a militant on a missionanother image of women that frightens employers? Simply look like you belong at the interview. "That means my head is held up, my shoulders are back, I walk in without hesitation, and I put my hand out," says Price. The handshake in particular is crucial. "A handshake was originally devised to prove we were weaponless. In a job interview, that translates to 'you and I are equal in value' when my hand goes out," Price says.

During the interview itself, do not complain about or even mention the lack of opportunity for women at your current or last job as the reason you are seeking new employment. Don't bring up the fact that there may be questions about your competency at all. Assume you are accepted and you will be, Price advises.

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