Women in business face a unique set of challenges. Juggling work life and motherhood, perceived obstacles to achieving success in a ‘man’s world’, not being taken as seriously by investors — just to name a few. But every day, millions of women put their noses to the grindstone and achieve amazing things.
To make it as a woman in business, the most helpful tool at your disposal is your determination and discipline in finding a way to make it all work — you will probably become a certified expert in ‘juggling’.
Key Challenges Women Face In The Workplace
Not to focus too strictly on the negative aspects, it is true that women face a unique set of challenges in the workplace (especially in more ‘traditional’ industries):
- Women in fields dominated by men (such as the engineering industries). This may bring about feelings of isolation
- Responsibility for childcare and household management often falls to the woman, adding a potential extra level of stress and complexity
- Maternity leave & pregnancy can bring about their own challenges
Though the government is focused on bringing about gender equality in the workplace, habits and practices aren’t changed overnight.
You may find that the flexibility you crave is not possible (for any number of different reasons). And this may, in turn, require you to rethink your career’s trajectory.
Grab a pen and paper and note down the things you want from your working life. Get into details about hours per week, the amount you need to earn, the creative feats you want to achieve, even down to how far you wish to commute every day for work.
Upon looking at this list, you may decide that your current job isn’t exactly what you had hoped for. This could mean taking a ‘radical sabbatical’ where you change job roles until you find your ideal fit. Or, on the other hand, you may feel far more content with starting your own business. If your current set up isn’t working for you, you may also want to speak to the company directors or HR to see what options are available to you.
Be proactive and voice your concerns or desires early on so that you don’t end up having to unfairly compromise. There is protection out there for women who have been treated unfairly — so get to know your rights.
Female-Focused Projects Changing The Conversation
Female entrepreneurs in Australia have been fighting the good fight for women in the workplace. The following three example schemes demonstrate how women in business are helping each other move up the career ladder:
Global Sisters is an Australian enterprise designed to help entrepreneurs facing economic barriers. The site runs an online marketplace, craft teaching classes and business mentoring to women who may be prevented from working for various reasons. Obstacles like full-time care duties, language barriers and disability prevent millions of Australian women from working.
Under the Global Sisters’ scheme, women who live under the OECD poverty line can learn how to make things like jewellery and turn it into a home business. The site and coaching have helped thousands of women build their confidence in creating an income. Best of all, you can shop the craft marketplace and pick up some handmade goods from wherever you are in the world.
STEM Sells is a scheme for girls in years 7,8, and 9 in Australia. This is an afterschool club with a difference. It presents a female-friendly space for young girls to learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. For young girls, in particular, the world of STEM can seem intimidating. However, these workshops include experiments, talks about inspiring women and lessons on how to make it as an entrepreneur. Opening children’s eyes to the benefits of STEM careers could have a significant impact on female recruitment in later years.
Taking on the females entering STEM in the early career phase, the WISE programme is an Australian government-backed scheme that breaks down barriers to entry. The scheme offers specialist careers advice for women in STEM. It helps them become leading communicators, championing of the cause of making male-dominated industries more open to female professionals.
Boundaries: Essentials Vs ‘Nice to Haves’
Taking the above examples to heart, think about your career and life balance needs. On the road to success, do you need a little more advice…and perhaps some income or legal support to help you tackle your current challenges?
Think very carefully about the pressure you may be putting on yourself to ‘perform’ and ‘succeed’ in all areas of life at one. Radical prioritization may be needed to help you get some clearer headspace if you are feeling stressed. Here are some work-life balance tips from other mums.
Working With The Community
Joining together with other people in your community can offer you a vast source of inspiration. Connections can also prevent you from feeling isolated in your efforts in trying to achieve the perfect work/life balance.
Message boards and forums online often dedicate sections of their site to women in work, and there are plenty of focused social media groups out there. Get to know these spaces, and work on building up personal and business relationships. You never know what career opportunities you could gain from your interactions, so do all you can to get involved in conversations. Find entrepreneur and business conferences in your local city to meet with like-minded individuals.
Nothing is stopping you from creating your own coffee morning event in your hometown. As the old saying goes, ‘there is strength in numbers,’ so find your ‘tribe’ for when you need a confidence boost.
You may find that through working with the community, you will find more of a voice for yourself.
Finding Fulfilling Work
There are plenty of companies out there doing right by women. This US website collates some of the better ones together, but you will also want to do your own research on sites like Glassdoor. Companies that ‘get’ women usually have a culture that’s geared towards people like you, but remember that fancy slogans and marketing messages need to be translated into ‘on the ground’ actions too.
You may find that your interests actually lie elsewhere and that as well as the corporate world, you would like to give entrepreneurship a try. There are many women out there who have stumbled on a business idea, often accidentally, just by solving a problem they’ve identified in the community. In the UK, a mum hit on the idea of ThisMumRuns when she realized that mums often found it hard to find the time to exercise around childcare. Starting from a simple and free Facebook group, to a dedicated online community and a cool swag store created on Shopify, their story is a great testament to finding work that works for you!
If you do go into business, use automated tools to help you manage your sales, recordkeeping, and marketing tasks. You may even want to start running your business as a ‘side hustle’ at first to help you adjust to your new lifestyle. If you have a thriving home business, you may want to look into franchising (find out more here).
Sometimes businesses blossom out of the simplest ideas — like this mum who made her doodles into a design brand. It may sound corny, but sometimes ‘following your heart’ is the best beat to follow.
Nothing in life is perfect, so don’t expect perfection from yourself either. Learn how to have a dynamic and exploratory relationship with your career; as well as being clued up on your rights, open your mind to other potential opportunities around you. Explore your options and join forces with the women making a difference in your community.
Victoria Greene is a brand consultant and freelance writer. She runs a blog at Victoria Ecommerce, where she offers entrepreneurs help and advice on digital topics.