Saturday, June 18, 2005

Women in Business - Making it Work. Technically Speaking

By Meghan Wier

Two big questions: Do antiquated societal values still prevent women’s success in business? Do institutional structures still obstruct a woman’s ability to achieve the highest of corporate prominence?

In Rochester today, there are many wonderful examples of successful business women. Yet, women still consistently earn less on the dollar for the same jobs, in the same companies all over the country, and world than their male counter-parts. All too often women do not enter the high tech fields at all, instead choosing lower paying, less prominent fields. Those women who do enter the technology fields are also more likely to leave than men.

The most profound, and probably the most debated obstacle for women’s business success is the family. Despite a significant paradigm shift, the family obligations of children, home, and the care of older parents are still a greater burden on women. Women take on the majority of family responsibilities, no matter how busy, or otherwise extended they are.

Often, over-qualified women will take lesser jobs for the flexibility, and convenience and often take extended periods of time off of work to be with their young families. They sacrifice salaries for time and freedom and family. As a community, we need to make sure that the expertise and experience of these women is appropriately cultivated, and commended in our businesses.
There are many ways for business and business people to promote women including changing our hiring procedures, exposing our young women in the higher paid and more technical professions, and re-evaluating our work day.

Firstly, businesses need to hire women based on their skills and experience. It seems rather obvious, but women are occasionally hired and promoted, especially in larger companies, because of a directive to meet a quota. While I understand the origin, and attempt to open doors for female employees, the practice of quotas undermines those women who do make it on their own accord; because they are the most qualified for the job. I would be very offended to be hired because of my gender, and I would never want anyone thinking that I had gotten my job just because of it. There are many talented and felicitous business people. Many of them are women. Set the example—and find the best person for the job, based on experience, not gender.
Secondly, make a serious effort to promote careers to young women. Promote all kinds of careers. The best way to do this: become a mentor. Women and men should find a way to show students that there are no limits when it comes to their future. In the Rochester area alone there are plenty of opportunities to mentor, and businesses should take the lead by hiring co-ops and interns from local schools and colleges. Showing young women all of the options available for business accomplishment will increase the amount of skillful and brilliant business women in the future.

Thirdly, there needs to be further transition in how people work. Some companies have already adopted “family friendly” policies, such as flex-time, job-sharing etc. Additionally, technology has been become readily available, and affordable in the last few years. Cell phones, wireless laptops, remote access, and PDAs have made working outside the home easier, and more productive. More companies need to look at these options for both their male and female employees. We are fortunate to live in an enlightened and technologically advanced community. We have the know-how and the resources. Let’s use them.

Advances for women in business in the US have come a long way—but they can go further. Not only should women have to have the same opportunities as men in business, but business has to adjust to the growing demands of life.

Can you make a difference?

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