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The "New Normal" for Women in the Search for Jobs

Updated on July 23, 2011
Photo via Creative Commons
Photo via Creative Commons | Source

Employers in the United States do not treat women the same as men in terms of hiring/firing, training/advancement, and promotion/pay. Employers do not have and have not done right by women.

There is not enough data to reflect what has happened to the careers and career opportunities since the dawn of the "new normal" with the general economic decline on-going since 2008. For example, some indexes claim that the majority of layoffs occurred among middle-aged men and that much of the new jobs growth has been in minimum wage service and retail jobs often the domain of women. But, the statistics are not fully formed or meaningfully sound yet.

The "glass ceiling" remains a fact of employment for many women and minorities. The "ceiling" is a metaphor used to describe the barriers in employment opportunities that are perceived to be the result of bias towards underrepresented or disenfranchised communities of workers, women among them. While the ceiling is a metaphor, it has been a hard reality for a long time.

Caution: The "glass ceiling" is not a United States problem alone. The International Labor Organization reports regularly on complex statistics on employment of women throughout the world. The US does not have a monopoly on such bias. Some countries well surpass the United States, but often this is a result of demographics and regional population. In real dollars and real numbers, the US competes well ahead of developing nations. Among the top industrialized nations, the United States has made small strides but surpasses many who have criticized the US model in the past.

The 2010 Census draws a picture of small advances (that still do not reflect the job losses since 2008):

  • · Women 25+ with a high school diploma make 20% less than the national median income (and 2.5% less than the men in the same group).
  • · Women 25+ with a Bachelor's Degree or higher make .7% less than men in the same class.
  • · Between 1967 and 2005, men saw an increase of 35% in their pay while women absorbed a 19.8% increase.
  • · Earnings for women were 78.2% of what men earned, a slight improvement from the 77.7% in the previous census.
  • · Men did better than women in all 5 states; only Puerto Rico had a female favored ratio.
  • · The District of Columbia had a ratio of 88.2%, and Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas all had 80% or better.

The statistical structure of the glass ceiling is not likely to change for the better during the current job market. While more women than men may find employment, the positions available are not likely to pay the marked differential or bonus for education and experience. Women will continue to work under the ceiling.

In the current job crisis, an insidious aspect of the ceiling is that its exercise is often not intentional. Businesses are doing what they need to in order to survive. So, when the leadership tightens the purse strings or restructures accountability, it can often appear to be that the "good old boys" are pulling the wagons into a circle. This is the "new normal."

Employees are being asked to stoop, to pick up the pieces, to tighten down the ship. This is often felt most by middle to low level employees, especially when they are asked to distribute the work of and carry on after the layoff a their mid-manager. Since, demographically, the rank and file is women and/or minority, some of the perception is real - if purely circumstantial. In this climate, many employers are dumping their previous promises to structure fairness for all.

At best, the good that employers have done in the past 20 years and the changes in society's expectations have put a certain momentum in place. There are enough good things in the culture and pipeline of good corporations, that reversal would take some doing. So, for example, when layoffs are contemplated, heads-up organizations do pay a new attention to equality issues more than in the past.

Still, women need to find direction in surviving the challenges:

  • · Ask yourself how important this is to you. Challenging the system takes time, passion, and energy. Those elements distract from other life directions, such as family and health.
  • · Specify your personal goals. Set down your objective. Is it more pay? Is it a promotion? Is it a specific responsibility? Fix the goal, the backup, and the benchmark you will accept.
  • · Identify your support system. You want your family to buy-in to their part in the sacrifice. You need to name the staff and functions that you may need on your team.
  • · Design a strategy and list the tactics you will use. Is it short or long-range? Is it the result of anger, jealousy, or revenge?
  • · Count the costs, out-of-pocket and emotional. You need to be comfortable with the costs and consider the options in your failure.
  • · Design a Plan B. There will be fallout to a challenge; you need to have a buffer in place for the negative results.

Best approach options may be left to the young women entering the workforce. Women, educated to the reality of the ceiling's position, have the best chance of making change. For example, if there is a "good old boys' club," women entering the workforce are better positioned to forge their own alliances and go-forward culture.

Women can take advantage of a new transparency that allows them to locate corporations with reputations for change and structures to enable it. Forbes Magazine reports annually on the social position of corporate strategies. In the midst of the recent class action against Wal-Mart, waged by female employees, Forbes took note of Wal-Mart's consequent infrastructure changes. Woman can, in their job searches, target companies with positive social positions by taking the time to explore public information or inside info, such as is made available through web data.

  • · Look for corporations with three or more women on each management team with influence, such as sales, operations, finance, marketing, acquisitions, etc.
  • · Identify those employers with mentorship and fast track programs in place. Ask how these plans work - during your job interview.
  • · Enter an interview with behavior and attitude that speak of commitment and accountability. Male or female, the most valued employees demonstrate "willingness," whatever that is. Women have been less acculturated to the sense of being on deck and stepping up to the plate.
  • · Come to a job interview with researched info on the business, its national and international performance. Analyze the performance and its direction, and let them know what you can do for the corporate plan.
  • · Do not make the interview about the future of women. The interview should be about the job and your ability to match its needs in skills, abilities, and experience. However, expect to work harder than the competition at this match.
  • · Talk to highly placed women in the organization, if you can, or find out what you can about their respective success paths. Look for virtues, such as self-confidence, determination, and resiliency. If they have been placed for their stubbornness, bull-headedness, and self-serving ambition, this is not a culture for women without these character traits. You can work within the system without the system making you something you do not want to be.

Women spend 80% of every dollar spent in the United States. They are more than 50% of the American workforce and 49% of its investors. They hold 49% of all managerial and professional positions. And, they still have to work at being paid for their performance.


Submit a Comment

  • Helna Reneesh profile image

    Helna Reneesh 

    6 years ago

    Really great hub.hope u see more

  • jainismus profile image

    Mahaveer Sanglikar 

    6 years ago from Pune, India

    Thank you for sharing this useful information. Voted up and shared with followers.

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 

    7 years ago from San Francisco

    Ugh, this is rather disheartening, but I appreciate the reminder that we're not working with a level playing field, and I also appreciate your helpful tips! Voted up and useful.

  • Fuller-Life profile image


    7 years ago from Washington, DC

    Great hub. I certainly love the depth of your research and flow of information. The reality of the "new normal" needs to explored further. Very important hub. Thanks and voted up.

  • citychick profile image


    7 years ago from Ulster County, New York

    Well researched hub! Books like "The Myth of Male Power" would have us think that men have it it tough, but it surely doesn't apply to the workplace. In many professions, the "good ole boys" network is alive and well. Thanks for the hub!

  • JSParker profile image


    7 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

    Right on! Well researched, well written, and depressingly true. I lost my job in 2009 at a position I'd held for 16 years, when the business was sold to another company. I remain unemployed, and I'm also over age 60. So add that to the mix. Great hub. Voted up and useful.

  • Paradise7 profile image


    7 years ago from Upstate New York

    Kathryn, great hub! I have been aware, and subject to, the glass ceiling for women in the workforce my whole thirty-odd-year working life. I have retired early; I hope against hope that I don't have to attempt re-entering the workforce in today's conditions.

    The hard fact is that beggars can't be choosers, and many women have to accept what's out there, what's available, whether or not it's fair. Many women, who are professional, skilled or unskilled in the workforce, still must simply take what's available.

    Your advice is great for those lucky ones with the luxury of time on their sides.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Hi excellent hub! I can see you are a professional writer. The situation is, as you said, not easy for women all over the Western countries. However in Western Europe some countries like Norway and Spain followed by Italy have introduced some new laws that impose employers to have a certain percentage of women in the boardroom. This is a way to break the glass ceiling. A question remains: do really women want to enter in the boardroom? It would require to dedicate almost your entire life to that and most of us have family and children to look after. Although one can say that there plenty of nannies and baby sitter happy to give an hand to the high flyer mum.


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