(BPT) - In the United States, women now earn more college degrees than men do. They make up half the workforce and, furthermore, are the primary breadwinner in more than half of households. Women have never been more well-positioned, but they continue to face numerous barriers that can make it difficult to advance in the workplace and build financial stability.
Women face unique challenges when it comes to growing their career, often as a result of deeply rooted historical gender roles that, while shifting, are slow to let go completely. When it comes to household chores and caregiving, women spend 28 hours per week on such tasks-65% more than the average for men, according to Prudential Retirement research.
These challenges also manifest in other ways, such as the persistent wage gap. On average, women make $0.81 for every dollar earned by men. What's more, while women are closing the gap in middle management, men typically get promoted faster and dominate the C-suite. Seventy-five percent of C-suite positions are still held by men, according to recent research.
Caroline Feeney, CEO of Prudential's Individual Solutions group, was recently profiled in 'Where are all the women CEOs?' by The Wall Street Journal, taking a deeper look at what is required to drive forward women's advancement in the workplace.
'Companies that are dedicated to creating more pathways to leadership for women recognize that it takes looking at people through a different lens and rethinking traditional one-size-fits-all career paths,' Feeney explains.
For other women looking to close the gaps, break down barriers and find personal, professional and financial success, Feeney advises focusing on three key areas:
1. Stay true to yourself and your purpose
Women, particularly those in male-dominated industries, may feel pressure to be 'one of the guys' in order to advance. But remaining true to yourself is important as you navigate through your personal and professional life. Embrace your gender and your differences. For example, research has shown that women are naturally more empathetic-so lean into this skill. Empathy can be a great asset in leadership roles and help women connect more easily with peers and build deeper relationships.
2. Find your 'why' and set your career trajectory
Finding the 'why' in your work can help women set a North Star that energizes them and helps to build confidence to take greater ownership of their role. That ownership and confidence is key to advancing to the next level. 'It's important for all women to have the confidence to step outside their comfort zone and strive for their goals,' says Feeney.
Taking thoughtful chances when possible to improve your skill set and build new leadership muscles can put your career on an upward trajectory. But it's also important to remain mobile and shift as reality shifts. Your career path may not reflect that of a mentor, friend or even close colleague.
3. Find a company that supports your goals
It's important to work for an organization that understands you and your goals, and that will provide support to achieve them. A commitment to diversity and women's advancement that is visible at the board or C-suite level, from senior-level men and women, is a positive sign. One or more people at higher levels within the company who actively seek out, work with, and support future female leaders through their actions and words can make a world of difference. And studies have shown diversity at the top can be a competitive advantage, leading to better decisions and stronger performance.
4. Pay it forward
Women who reach senior levels can provide an essential lifeline to those who follow, by keeping a lookout for rising female talent and taking that extra step to support them through mentorship and sponsorship. As women advance in their career, oftentimes there are few female role models to emulate.
'Ultimately, those of us in senior positions have a responsibility to speak up and make our workplace a better environment for all employees,' Feeney explains. 'Advancing our careers begins with all of us as women owning what we want our workplace to be.'
With focus and consistent effort, women can continue to close gaps and strive for the success they desire in all aspects of their lives. Let these steps inspire you to make a change for yourself and other females in your life.
© 2020 The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, NJ.