Women have made great strides in the workplace over the past few decades, but the sad fact is that their earnings, in most fields, are lower than those of men who work in similar positions and have similar education. By some estimates, women only make 80 cents (or less) to every dollar a man earns. Understandably, many women are frustrated by this inequity.
As a result, women are on the lookout for ways they can get ahead. Small changes can make a big difference in how you are perceived in the workplace, and how much you see in your paycheck.
Learn New Skills
You were first hired for your skills and knowledge, but that doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels and assume that your existing abilities will bring take you to the top. The business world is constantly changing. It’s up to you to stay on top of the developments and enhance your abilities accordingly. This might mean attending conferences or workshops on topics related to your field, seeking out training opportunities or even an advanced degree like a master in health administration.
Find a Mentor
Some companies have formal mentorship programs that pair upper-level executives with less experienced workers. A mentor can provide feedback, access to the inner workings of the organization and advice on how to handle issues that you might face day-to-day. They can prove to be valuable allies as you climb the corporate ladder. If you don’t have a mentor, consider who in your organization you might connect with. Discuss the possibility of developing a closer working relationship.
One reason that women don’t get ahead at work is they resist taking risks, instead waiting until the “time is right” or they feel more comfortable with whatever it is they need to do. However, to land the highest-paying healthcare management jobs for example, women must be willing to get out of their comfort zones and do things that might make them nervous, but will pay off in dividends later. That might mean volunteering for a high-profile project, proposing a major process change or speaking up more often with more force.
Experts say that too often, women wait for others to promote them in the workplace. And, all too often, the accolades they deserve are late in coming, if they come at all. Women who want to get ahead need to be self-promoters, letting their superiors know about their accomplishments. That doesn’t mean being a braggart, but sending your boss a quick email to let her know that you’ve made significant progress on a problem or facilitated a major win for the organization will get you noticed.
If you show up to work every day and hide in your cubicle, performing your work and going home, you’re never going to get to the top. Don’t be invisible. Make it a point to network within your organization, chatting up everyone from the mailroom manager to the executive sharing the elevator. Be the friendly face that is interested in others’ work. Attend networking events outside of work as well. Work cocktail parties or golf tournaments might seem dull, but that’s when you can get the real scoop and make the contacts that will help later.
How far you can go in your career depends on a number of factors, including the organization you work for, the demand within your industry and how you manage your own career. Develop a strategic plan for getting ahead and reaching your goals, relying on your skills, talents, knowledge and network. If you do, you’ll contribute to closing the gender wage gap.
About the Author: After working in health care communications for almost two decades, Patti Babcock recently returned to school for a master’s degree in health care management.
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