How can women advance their careers- Part 3
How can women advance their careers- Part 3
In the final part of this series we look at experiences and advice from successful millennial women from around the globe.
If you’ve been following our recent research project ‘How can women advance their careers’ you’ll know that this is our third, and final, article in the series. We have been researching the barriers that millennial women face in their careers, and how that differs to men or to the older generations of women. In this final article, we are exploring the different experiences that women have across the millennial age group, from different areas of the globe.
Who we have interviewed
Before we dig into their interviews, let’s take a look at the profiles of the women we spoke to.
Bryony McCabe: Connecting clients with experts
First up is Bryony McCabe. She is a Team Leader at Knowledge Marketplace, and her job is to connect clients with experts in any given field. Bryony has been in her current role for three years, and before that, she spent two and a half years at a Language Services start-up in a hybrid Project Management and Business Development role. Bryony is currently 28 years old and is in a living with her partner with no children, based in London.
Sofia Benmouffok: Sustainability Recruitment
The second woman we interviewed is Sofia Benmouffok. She is the Principal Consultant at Acre, a global niche sustainability recruitment group, in which she leads client engagements with investment clients. Sofia leads the America region and teams, and she also delivers executive search projects for responsible investment. She has been working in recruitment since 2009, and has been specifically working within energy and the green economy for 6 years. Sofia has no children, and currently lives with her partner in New York.
Aishwarya Jain: Sales and Marketing
At twenty-five years old, Aishwarya Jain is our third, and youngest, millennial woman, and she is based in India, again without dependents. Aishwarya is a Lead Product Evangelist at peopleHum Technologies, which is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated platform, used to enhance employee experiences. She works in sales and marketing, strategy planning for lead generation, and interviews top global thought leaders for their channel, ‘leadersHum’. Aishwarya has been working in the industry for just over a year.
Our fourth interviewee is Belle Ruffell, an HR coordinator for a US Law firm. Belle onboards new starters, manages the leavers process and company benefits, payroll process, and is responsible for HR queries. Following four years working in recruitment, Belle has been in HR for two and a half years now. She is 28 years old, single without children, and lives with her friend in London.
Ali Draycott: Strategy Consultant & Entrepreneur
The final millennial woman we interviewed is Ali Draycott, a director at Future Agenda. Ali is a consultant in the areas of strategy, foresight and innovation. She has always worked in strategic and innovation roles for organisations or consultancies. Ali is thirty-seven years old, is single, without children and has just moved from Dubai to London.
How has Coronavirus impacted your business?
Our first question of the interview was about the impact of Coronavirus on peoples’ jobs, and if they think they will see any lasting changes. Everyone interviewed has seen their job move online, working remotely.
- Belle, working in HR, has found her job to remain fairly similar, although some things take longer.
- Ali has found, as a consultant, that business decision making has slowed, and there has been a bit of a decline in spending on external consultants.
- Bryony has also seen a lower pipeline of requests than expected, but says that the company is still growing year-on-year. She also expects the flexibility policies of the company to improve going forward, as does Sofia.
- As Sofia works for a recruitment company, she said that the industry as a whole has taken a hit, of course, so there have been some short-term slowdowns. However, she highlighted that their specialisations, in sustainability, responsible investing, and Diversity & Inclusion, are all trending upwards long-term. As such, they are already seeing “green shoots” in recruitment activity across the specialisations.
- In contrast to the others who have seen something of a slow-down, Aishwarya says that her company has really grown in terms of sales, website traffic has increased substantially, and there’s not been a single layoff or salary cut, including bonuses. Aishwarya is also the only person who highlighted that her leaders stepped-up to take care of every employee’s mental well-being, a very important aspect of dealing with this pandemic.
Is there a gender gap?
- Ali: In terms of the gender gap at their respective companies, Ali, who is at the older end of the millennial age-range, says that her company is “male dominated”.
- Bryony’s company also has a gender gap, with only 2 women out of 9 people in the Leadership Team, although she highlights that there is good representation of women at mid and entry levels.
- This is a similar story at Belle’s law firm, who highlights the distinction between the lawyers and the staff. With the lawyers, women aren’t represented at partner level, but the associates are 50/50. When it comes to the staff, women are far better represented in the senior positions.
- Aishwarya says that in her company, about 30% of the senior leaders in the company are women. She adds that, despite being a 25-year-old female, she is in the position of being a leader and sits at the table with the top 5% of the company. This suggests that the company will have better gender balance in the future.
- Again, Sofia’s experience working in recruitment sets her apart a little. She said that in her company at the moment, there is a “fair amount of female representation, although certainly not 50/50”. However, she highlights that this level of female representation is not reflective of the sector. In her past experiences, she has predominantly worked at companies with 90%+ male leadership.
Taking a look at these answers, it seems like the change is coming. Ali’s company is a male-dominated, and although tech is equally male dominated, Aishwarya already has a seat on the top table. Despite the top jobs still predominantly going to men, it looks like the women are coming up through the ranks and should be well represented in the future.
From our survey’s results, we saw that for 87% of our Millennial respondents, their companies had 50% women or fewer, with 52% reporting fewer than 30% women in the senior roles. It seems like these interviews back-up those findings.
Does your company try to promote women at more senior roles?
- When asked about whether or not their company tries to promote women at more senior roles, we seem to see a bit of an age divide within the millennial group, again. Ali said no, Sofia and Bryony said yes, and Aishwarya said that there is a flat structure with a culture of openness. Belle again marks the difference between the lawyers, who are offered training and programmes, compared to the staff, who don’t tend to receive training to achieve senior roles.
- Sofia says that everyone in her company receives training and mentorship opportunities, and Bryony said they receive training too. In fact, Bryony says that her company “tries to promote women at more senior roles”, and adds that the company sometimes runs sessions “covering topics on diversity in the workplace”.
- Aishwarya has a different experience. Rather than promoting women or having additional training, she says: “The opportunity set for women is wide and varied and the only thing that would block you from your own growth would actually be only you here”
Given that our results from our survey showed that 79%, millennial women felt that their company offers leadership skills, or 1 in 5 don’t, it would again seem that the results from our survey are accurate.
Do you set career goals and have a clear strategy for how to reach them?
In our survey, 91% of Millennial respondents said that they have some sort of career goals, so it is no surprise that the women we have interviewed all have some sort of career goals.
- Belle said that she has executed her clear career goals, in order to move out of recruitment and into HR. Similarly, Ali had a strategy to get to her current position, but she is now exploring being a partner.
- Aishwarya said that she defined her goal with “elaborate descriptions and planning… to execute it step-by-step”. Although, she adds that the role she has wasn’t a result of a particular aim, so much as it was “a consequence of working hard and never giving up.”
- Bryony and Sofia both talk about their career plans as something that they are mid-way through. Sofia said that she moved to her current role to build the skills necessary to reach her 10-year plan. Similarly, Bryony said that she made it clear from the start that she wanted to get experience in line-management, and set out a strategy to enable it. She said that she used “clear goals” so that she could broaden her sector experience.
What could help you to reach future goals?
Our survey produced some very interesting results with regards to what our Millennial respondents would find useful to reach their future goals. We found that millennial women tend to think that further professional development is what is required to advance their careers. It seems that this is very much in keeping with the results from our interviews too.
- Aishwarya said that “a constant mentor would definitely help me”. Sofia agreed and said that “career coaching or external mentor would be incredibly handy.” She added that she is keen to build a “stronger network of female executive leaders in this space” to help bolster her potential for growth.
- Bryony thinks that more input from senior members of staff, or sponsors, would be “hugely beneficial”. She highlights that the broader experience and perspective of senior members of staff could be helpful too. While Belle agrees, emphasising the need for someone to help with planning her career and the next steps required. She also adds that the company paying for courses that help her to progress is “100% helpful”.
Take some time to think about your career goals and strategy today! Use these career reflection worksheets to structure your thoughts.
What barriers do you face in advancing your career? Are they gender specific?
As we mentioned, in our survey we found that the older generations emphasised external factors as barriers to advancing their careers, while the Millennial respondents highlighted their own, professional development. This is something that we definitely see again in these interviews.
- Whereas Aishwarya said “I don’t see any particular barriers.”
- Ali mentioned the expectations of managing children, the division of labour at home, the gender pay gap, and the lack of respect for women in the workplace.
- Bryony said something similar, saying that she’s “sure that everyday bias is at play”, although she doesn’t think that she faces any specific barriers for being female.
- Belle said that her main barrier is a lack of guidance and support, which aligns with our survey respondents.
- However, we would particularly like to highlight Sofia’s response, as it sheds light on several aspects. She said: “My success in my organisation is down to my ability to influence and persuade senior executives in the investment and energy space to retain our business – as such, I am constantly engaging with, and selling to, older white men…. I have to work harder than my male counterparts to be and sound like a subject matter expert in my space, because how I look (short, young woman with a young face) inherently threatens my credibility in an industry where age and experience is key and where female leaders are few.”
This shows that there are some systemic barriers that women face which we are still trying to overcome, and which have little to do with ability. While more training can be a massive help for career advancement, there are still some barriers which will take longer to break through.
Does your company hire an equal number of men and women? Try our eBook for 12 key steps to attract, recruit and retain top female talent.
Advice for others going down a similar path
Our final section of this interview is our favourite, and we feel confident that it will be yours too. This is where we asked our interviewees for their advice for others going down a similar path. Here you have it:
- Ali: “Plan your career earlier – consider becoming an industry specialist rather than a generalist”
- Belle: “Speak to other women and educate yourself about what is out there, and don’t be afraid to use them as contacts… It is so important to talk to as many people as you can about what you might want to do”
- Sofia: “Network, network, network”
- Aishwarya: “Stay connected to your passion, be resilient and keep plugging away. Everything else will fall in place eventually.”
Some more tips!
- Ali: “Keep a scrap book of projects you have worked on and key results as you go”
- Sofia: “Be selfish with your time prioritisation and time management will be your saving grace/downfall”
- Belle: “If you aren’t happy with what you are doing, don’t be scared to change it”
- Bryony: “Bring your full, genuine self to work! If you try to force yourself to behave otherwise, you won’t be being authentic, and it will hinder you long-term. It will also improve visibility across organisations that workforces are diverse, and people don’t have to behave like carbon-copies of one another, or force themselves into, e.g. male-coded culture.”
So, there you have it. Some top advice from our successful millennial women. And experiences that, for the most part, match what we found out through our research. Millennial women are being held back by systemic inequalities in our cultures. But they could also overcome a lot of their barriers through more professional development. In particular, the lack of senior role models makes it difficult to know how to navigate the chosen career path. These are barriers that can be overcome, so that hopefully millennial women will achieve greater gender parity than previous generations.
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Dates for the Diary
12th January 2021 “Habits to help you work more effectively remotely” Crop Life Europe - Corporate event
28th January 2021 “Licence to hire - Managing Bias in Recruitment” ENGIE - Corporate event
29th January 2021 “Licence to hire - Managing Bias in Recruitment” ENGIE - Corporate event
5th February 2021 “ How to Build your Personal Board“ ENGIE Fifty-Fifty Programme - Corporate event
8th March 2021 IWD "How to create a career and networking strategy for career success” Highquest Partners - Corporate event
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