Career growth has changed over the years and even more drastically in the last few years. Several factors contribute to this, such as:

  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the acceleration of the changes that took place in the workplace and individual’s recalibration of what is important to each of us (i.e., how do we want to spend our days, prioritizing our mental health, etc.).
  • New generations entering the workplace, forcing companies to reevaluate the way they hire, train and retain talent.
  • The evolution of technology that seems to get smarter by the day (e.g., ChatGPT).

Career growth is no longer linear, but instead shaped as a zig zag. Women were the most impacted by the changes stated above on different levels. Often times it’s the set structure and lack of access to certain opportunities that slow down women’s career advancement, and sometimes it’s women themselves who tend to slow their growth due to years and generations of conditioning of what a woman should be and how she should show up in the workplace (hint: not being too career driven nor outspoken).

Some interesting stats from report on Women in the Workplace 2022 found:

  • Women are still dramatically underrepresented in leadership: only one in four C-suite executives is a woman, and only one in 20 is a woman of color.
  • The “broken rung” is still holding women back: for every 100 men promoted from entry level to manager, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted.
  • Now, women leaders are leaving their companies at higher rates than ever before. To put the scale of the problem in perspective: For every woman at the director level who gets promoted, two women directors are choosing to leave their company.

Societal expectations certainly played a role in making a woman feel as if she does not always belong at the big boys table, but we cannot deny that sometimes our own limiting beliefs play a role as well.

This is a complex topic and can be looked at from different angles. For the article, let’s focus on solutions. One can argue for many reasons why these stats exist, but let’s focus our attention on what we can do to change these for the better. Let’s look at it from two sides: the individual and the organization. What can each side do to work together to improve these numbers and ultimately mutually benefit from the changes?

The Individual Level

As a woman (or anyone, essentially) in the workplace, you must take accountability for your own growth and upskilling, reskilling and unlearning when needed. Part of that includes overcoming your own limiting beliefs about belonging to a leadership position, because research shows us that women, on average, face imposter syndrome more than men. Next, create space and time (literally, block it in your calendar) to take care of the basics that drive us forward — physical and mental well-being.

Lean into the discomfort that might accompany this growth and period of change. View it as an opportunity to thrive and pave the way for the women that come after. Change takes time and change is difficult but with small, consistent steps — change is only a matter of time.

Now, you have done the work, but you cannot do it all on your own. This is where the organization’s role comes in to provide support, access and resources.

The Organizational Level

As an organization, let’s identify where you stand on this topic and areas where you can start to make some changes. Below are guiding questions for reflection.

  • Where are the women in your company are at in their respective career journeys?
  • Can you describe the aspiration of each member of your team?
  • Have you had a conversation with each of your team members to identify their goals, aspirations and challenges they might be facing?
  • How are you intentionally creating opportunities for women in your company to develop and grow?

Are your diversity and inclusion policies being only on paper or is it actually practiced? If they are being practiced, what actions are contributing to that practice?

Only by getting the root obstacles of developing the women in your workplace can true change take place and can you utilize the entirety of your workforce simply being aware of our actions versus empty vision statements.

If we approach this from both sides — individual and organizational — we can truly make strides in ensuring that all of our employees are growing, developing and staying long term, because they have the flexibility and balance that we all need to work and live well.