More opportunities to climb to top of ladder
Women may be 10 years away from reaching gender parity in the workforce, CareerOne Editor Cara Jenkin reports.
THE gender career divide may have more to do with a time lag from changing community attitudes than discrimination in the workplace, leaders say.
By maintaining an even playing field, they say women will reach gender parity in the workforce, perhaps in the next decade.
Pace Lawyers principal Serina Pace believes male domination in areas, such as law, largely stems from the career choices and opportunities made available to women decades ago, rather than any action now.
In the past 10 years, she furthered her career from being a practitioner at a large corporate law firm to being the principal lawyer of her own firm.
She believes many women from earlier generations, however, were not prepped with the same determination and peer support to pursue and develop their careers.
Women generally were not encouraged to pursue their talents but told what career paths might be suitable to them, often had to take significant time out off work to raise a family and were the family’s predominant caregivers, even after returning to work, she says.
Men, meanwhile, went to university and pursued their toplevel careers.
That meant women climbed the ladder more slowly than men. Only now are the benefits of changing attitudes starting to emerge, she says.
‘‘This trend has been changing and I dare say in another five to 10 years the industry should further approach parity,’’ she says.
Since the 1980s, women have been encouraged into careers outside the norm and study at university, which has put them on the path towards workforce parity. Community attitudes increasingly encourage men to take on more family responsibilities and welcome women in senior positions.
‘‘It can be intimidating stepping into the world on your own, particularly in a world that is still dominated by men,’’ Ms Pace says.
‘‘No client has raised my gender as an issue but people still expect a man to be heading up a team of 10, and growing, commercial and corporate lawyers.’’
She attributes her success to following business strategies and gaining support which is not tailored specifically for women but rather for all leaders, whatever their gender. Peer support group The Executive Connection chairman Jerry Kleeman says family is an additional burden few men carry. ‘‘Many of the female executives I talked to are the most responsible for the family and children or certainly feel that way,’’ he says.
He says being involved in nongender specific leadership programs brings the added advantage of allowing men and female leaders to learn from each other’s experiences – in and out of the workplace. ‘‘I would expect, over time, to see a transition to parity or closer to parity in the workplace,’’ he says.
Serina Pace has taken opportunities to further her career.