Why 91% of Working Women Are Wrong
Ugh… 91% of 10,000 women surveyed believe that more senior roles involve longer hours and more pressure. That’s an unfortunate misperception!
This Project 28-40 survey* targets 100,000 women in the UK and Ireland, but the sentiment of these first 10,000 respondents is widely shared by women all over the world that I speak with, coach and mentor on a regular basis. In fact, it was a frequent topic of conversation among corporate women I met with last month in Brazil and Argentina.
Here’s what I tell working women who share this common misperception: The worst jobs are 1) the ones with the longest hours, and 2) the type of pressure that you have the least amount of control over. The worst jobs are middle management jobs.
Middle management jobs, the place where many women get stuck that are the ones that are the hardest. They are in fact the jobs that require the most amount of work and have the worst kind of pressure.
When you are in middle management, you are both an individual contributor and a manager of a team. There is still a lot of work that you yourself have to do and you also have to lead and manage the work of your team. You have pressure from above you in your organization, from below you in the organization and from your peers. And here’s the thing — when you are in middle management there’s not a lot you can do to alleviate that pressure.
Apparently, a well kept secret, at least one that has been largely kept from women, is that the higher up in an organization you go, the less “work” you have to do. At senior levels you are primarily paid to think, to solve problems and to be strategic. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that senior leaders don’t work hard or put in a lot of hours or don’t have pressure. What I am saying is that the more senior you are, the less “hands-on” work you have to produce, and the more your job success is based on what you think, the strategy you develop, how you lead, how you innovate and how you problem-solve through others. You can do a lot of this type of work from anywhere, including, guess what, at home, at night and if need be, after you’ve put the kids to bed. Yes, the pressure at the top of an organization is intense, but in many cases when you are in the C-Suite, unlike when you are in middle management, you can take action and you have resources to alleviate that pressure.
“Until we close the gap at every level, including the top, we will not, companies will not, and the world will not realize the full benefit of the contributions of women in workplace.”
The reasons why women are still grossly under represented at the top of organizations are numerous, but it is a terrible shame that one of the contributing factors is women’s inaccurate assumptions about what it takes to be senior or executive leader. When women put the brakes on themselves in middle management, they stop their career trajectory at the absolute hardest place. The gap between women and men in the workplace has been closing at the lower levels of organizations, but until we close that gap at every level, including very importantly at the top, we will not, companies will not, and the world will not realize the full benefit of the contributions of women in workplace.
So, women: please don’t stop when you get to middle management! Don’t take yourself out of the running for a more senior role. Keep going. Ask for more responsibility. Take that promotion. Volunteer for that assignment. Trust, me being at the top of the mountain is a lot easier than it looks from below. Come on up, we’re waiting for you.
“Don’t take yourself out of the running. Keep going! Ask for more responsibility. Take that promotion. Volunteer for that assignment.”
More about the Project 28-40 survey: launched by Opportunity Now, the campaign is chaired by the chief executive of Newton Investment Management – Helena Morrissey – and backed by businesses including FTSE 100 chief executives from Barclays, GSK and Rolls Royce, as well as the heads of government departments, the London Fire Brigade and the British Army.