Economic conditions during the pandemic took an especially difficult toll on women, with nearly 2.2 million females leaving the workforce between February and October 2020, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center.
Of course, this difficult environment doesn’t mean women should shy away from asserting their rights in the workplace or pursuing better opportunities. In fact, it means just the opposite. It’s more vital than ever that women speak up against discriminatory practices and for equal pay and equal opportunities for advancement.
As the pandemic eases, many employees are likely to return to an office environment in the coming months, although there’s some disconnect between leaders (who tend to prefer more office time) and workers (who have become accustomed to working from home).
With all this in mind, the question arises of how best to advance your career as a woman post-pandemic. Here are some ideas to consider.
Support union efforts.
Women have long lagged behind men in terms of union membership, which is a key mechanism for promoting wage equality.
Indeed, research indicates that unions help narrow the wage gap between men and women in the workplace. In 2016, for instance, women working in unions received 94 cents on the dollar compared with unionized men. Alternatively, non-union women were paid just 78 cents on the dollar, compared with their non-union male counterparts.
And yet, as of 2020, men continued to have a higher union membership rate (11%) than women (10.5%), with the overall rate at 10.8% — barely half of what it was in 1983 — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The conclusion: Joining unions where they exist and advocating for unions where they don’t can help women narrow the wage gap and advance their careers.
Actively fight stereotypes.
Women in the workplace are often characterized unfairly and, as a result, burdened with unrealistic expectations that go beyond those placed on their male counterparts — all while receiving less pay.
Stereotypes are rampant and need to be continually challenged, both with evidence and active pushback against sexism. For example, the pervasive myth that men are better than math was debunked by a study in which women who focused on identifying themselves as being enrolled at an exclusive private college did as well as men on math tests. Other key research put to rest a different fable: that men are better at negotiating than women.
Not surprisingly, it is societal prejudices – not a lack of ability – that tends to hold women back. These stereotypes persist, and need to be confronted at every turn.
Be willing to change jobs.
According to the research, changing jobs frequently can benefit you financially and allow you to advance your career more quickly.
Staying in the same job might get you an annual cost-of-living raise, say 3%. But moving to a different position can give you a lot bigger boost: an average increase of 10% to 20%. In fact, if you stay at the same company for an average of more than two years, you’ll earn at least 50% less over your lifetime than you would have if you’d changed jobs.
Getting that new job or embarking on a new career path might require you to step out of your comfort zone and learn new skills, but it will be worth it.
Enhance your skill set.
Speaking of enhancing your skill set, continuing education is always helpful, and it doesn’t have to mean going back to school for an advanced degree. Many short-term seminars and virtual opportunities are available, too.
With tech skills especially in demand, look for marketable proficiencies in areas that translate well to multiple positions, such as familiarity with an array of commonly used software (such as Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint, etc.). Familiarity with grant writing and internet marketing, particularly search engine optimization (SEO) can help you advance, as well.
Look for training opportunities, both in person and virtually, and once you’ve mastered a skill, update your physical and online resumes to reflect your expertise.
Find your tribe, and network.
Thanks to the internet, professionals looking to advance their careers can network across far greater geographic distances than ever before. Take advantage of sites like Alignable and LinkedIn, as well as your personal network on social media, to forge alliances with others on your career path. This will allow you to share tips and ideas that have brought you success and learn the same from others.
Furthermore, you should stay in touch with former supervisors and co-workers who can advocate for you in your quest for a new position, if and when the time comes. If your list of trusted colleagues includes a potential mentor, be sure to pursue that relationship. According to three decades of research, mentorship leads to higher pay, faster advancement, and greater career satisfaction for mentees.
Burnish your reputation.
Prospective employers look at a range of factors in considering new hires, including your employment history (this is an instance where changing jobs too frequently can hurt you) and even your credit rating.
You can combat any negatives in your employment record by seeking out positive recommendations from past employers and colleagues. This proactive step helps ensure that nothing in your past can undermine your goals. You should also carefully curate your social media accounts, as many employers will check public posts and photos before they offer you a position.
Although they can’t get access to your credit score, employers may view your credit history in an attempt to learn how responsible you are, especially if you’re being considered for a financial position. If you’re thinking of applying for a new role, it’s worthwhile to check your report yourself and to take the steps to build or rebuild your credit. Then employers won’t be able to use that as an excuse to pass you by.
These are just some of the ways you can advocate for yourself and advance your career in the post-pandemic world. Other opportunities are available, too. Be on the lookout for ways to move forward in boldness and confidence, so nothing can hold you back.
This blog is printed with permission.
About the author: Molly Barnes is a full-time digital nomad. She works remotely, travels constantly, and explores different cities across the U.S. She started her site, www.digitalnomadlife.org as a resource for travelers, nomads, and remote workers. Molly writes resources that help office and remote workers alike reach their personal and professional goals of becoming more successful. Follow along with her and her boyfriend Jacob on their blog as they pursue a nomadic lifestyle while freelancing and traveling across the country.