What have we learned from Women’s History Month?
As National Women’s History Month draws to a close, I find myself thinking about my career path and what has led me to where I am today. This isn’t something I ponder once a year. I grew up in a family of 11 with a bright and well-educated mother, who along with my father, raised nine confident and independent daughters. I went to an all-girls high school and graduated college knowing I was capable of making a positive impact in this world. And then I started working…
Research shows that when women and men start working post-college, their career aspirations are about equal. The picture changes dramatically for women after just a couple of years in the workforce. The goal of growing into a C-level role diminishes quickly for so many capable young women. This matters and it matters a lot. The number of female college graduates who enter the workforce each year have outnumbered their male counterparts for several years now, but as we all know, the number of women in C-level positions remains greatly disproportionate.
So what can we do about it? I’m an executive recruiter. I talk to very accomplished female executives every single day. Are they the lucky ones and what about the rest of those hopeful and ambitious young graduates? There is a common thread that runs through my conversations. I hear countless stories from women about how individuals took them under their wings and invested time in their career development. There is a big push to encourage school-aged girls to consider STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) careers, which is great for all of us with daughters. But what can we do right now in the current workplace? Take the time to mentor someone. Don’t wait to be asked. When you spot talent, don’t pass up the opportunity to help this person succeed.
We all have full lives. As a working mother, I see so many of my peers struggle with guilt. I’ve never felt guilty about working. What I do feel is a great pressure to be a strong role model to my daughter. But as I’ve thought about Women’s History Month, I have been reminded that this burden I feel doesn’t sit solely on my shoulders. The founder of my company, Paula Morgan, tucked me under her wing 16 years ago. When she decided to start her own company, Paula didn’t think twice about her ability to do it successfully because she too had a mother who made sure she knew she could do anything she wanted. Paula, along with several other bright and committed professionals along the way, built a thriving women-owned company. My daughter will never have to look far for strong role models or a mentor and I’m very grateful for that. However, as an executive recruiter, I know this isn’t the norm. I see firsthand how challenging it is to maintain a diverse talent pool within organizations.
Will it ever get easier? Of course. If you’re a seasoned executive with some valuable experience, share it. If you’re just starting out, be brave. Find someone you trust and who will be honest with you. Ask for help. It will last a lifetime.
Lisa Coyne is a long-time Principal & Recruiter at Morgan Consulting Resources, a healthcare executive search firm celebrating 20 successful years in business.