The Difficulties of Career Planning for Women

The Difficulties of Career Planning for WomenSo much of our lives requires planning – we plan our next vacation, we plan what we are going to eat this week, who we are going to see, and what we are going to do. But sometimes through the day-to-day of life and our responsibilities at work we forget to plan our careers. Suddenly months, and then years go by.

Are we working in the field we want to be in or for the company that we want to be working for? Are we actually enjoying the work we do? Do we like the people we work with? Does work fit in with our lives? Do our lives fit in with work? Are we getting the support we need? When it comes to planning our careers, it seems this is something our male counterparts are much better at, due to a set of factors.

Having recently attended the AHRI International Women’s Day Breakfast and having read Annabel Crabb’s book, The Wife Drought, it seems that while men are good at career planning, women are lacking in performance. As Sheryl Sandberg said in her much acclaimed book, Lean In, women lean out rather than in, and in the process they put career planning on the backburner.

At a recent dinner party, the women I was with were very clearly sitting in two groups - according to their job status. The first group wanted to earn as much as they could during their 20’s. They believed wouldn’t be working in their 30’s, if ever again, due to wanting to be in the home. The second group weren’t too fussed about what happened with their careers. They, too, said that in their 30’s their careers wouldn’t matter, they would be in the home anyway.

I find this incredibly sad. Are we still at the stage where women feel like their careers will only last 10 years or so before they lean out and ensure their husbands succeed while they take care of things on the home front? Perhaps for some this is great, but it shouldn’t be a given – it should be a choice. Regardless of gender, everyone should get the opportunity to plan their careers.

Over and over I have heard my male peers sit down with their managers and map out their career. The women? Not so much…

A few years ago I worked in a small company where I was the only female amongst 8 males. I was often introduced as the token female and, while they were always courteous and polite, it was very obvious why I was employed there. They got to say that in a male-dominated industry they embraced all genders… Sorry, but 1 in 8 isn’t really embracing gender equality. So how do we make things change? How do we encourage women to be involved and plan their careers?

We need to look at women’s roles in the workplace and at home to help them achieve the right balance between their work and their lives while enabling their success at all levels. One of my former female bosses was able to work 4 days a week with 1 day at home. Depending on childcare hours she also started early and finished early or started early and finished working once the children were in bed. This is what I call work-life flexibility. It allowed her to do the job she wanted to do while still maintaining that balance of being a caregiver and looking after the home as she wanted to do.

We need to take career planning seriously for everyone. If your female employees have to lean out for a period of time while they have children it should not stop them from having a career plan in place nor their being encouraged to return to the workforce after children. Too many females I know are overlooked when it comes to career progression and it is time that we look at other options for how we can create a more balanced and embracing work culture for everyone. 

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