International Women's Day: The Psychology of the Working Woman
7 March 2017
The modern working woman is seen to be a number of things: a go-getter, a multi-tasker, a hard worker. After all, the analogy of the glass ceiling would lead most to believe that women have had to work twice as hard to get to where they are in the workplace.
But most women will probably find themselves facing an all-too-common workplace dichotomy – they are either seen to be way too aggressive and pushy (words like ‘spiky’ are often used to describe such women) or they are torn between pursuing a career and family life.
Yes, sadly, in this day and age, women are still seen as primary carers when it comes to children, therefore the mantra of ‘having it all’ still seems impossible for some.
Many women won’t even consider taking a promotion in work because it may entail longer hours or a heavier workload – both of which could have an impact on family life. “Who will pick up the kids from school if I have to work till 6pm every night?” is something that any working mother would worry about. But would a working father?
According to a study by Axxon Media, women are four times more likely to work part-time in order to meet childcare needs. Many of the women surveyed also expressed that their decision to become mothers had negatively impacted their career. Perhaps that’s why 54,000 mothers have told The Fawcett Society website that they have felt ‘forced’ out of their jobs less than a year after returning from maternity leave.
Women are also far more likely undersell their skills and abilities for fear of coming across as too pushy or aggressive. It seems to stem from the fact that women entered the workplace centuries after men, and still feel ‘new’ to things.
If they were to be overly assertive, they would be accused of possessing a level of arrogance that would make Jose Mourinho blush. (Note that it’s okay for him to give himself a nickname like The Special One – can you imagine if a woman had done that?!)
Studies show that women are also far less likely to ask for a pay rise, whereas men have absolutely no problem in asking for a hike – even outwith annual reviews. It perhaps stems from this notion that women feel like they need to prove themselves in a role before asking for rightful payment. This fear of being rebuked for negotiating a pay rise is no doubt a massive contributor to the gender pay gap.
There is also this unfortunate stereotype that women in power are hard task maskers who pick on their staff. Any woman who dares to show signs of authority is automatically labeled a ‘bitch’. But if a man was shouting at staff or pulling them up for poor performance, these incidents would pass without remark.
So the modern working woman finds herself treading a fine line – working hard enough to be seen as conscientious, but not attempting to take over in case she’s seen as a threat.
Ladies, you don’t need to prove yourselves. You are doing just as good a job as any man and, in some cases, a better one. You work hard, you’re entitled to your wages just like anyone else.
Being ambitious or career-driven does not make you aggressive (or a bad mother, for that matter). It simply means you are focused.
On International Women’s Day, wouldn’t it be great if women could truly empower each other to progress in the workplace, instead of tearing each other down by judging each other based on outdated, chauvinistic stereotypes?
Go for that promotion, ask for that wage rise, take pride in your work. You deserve it.
Written By Mary Palmer