Blended Generation Think Tank: Women in the Workforce – the Saga Continues….

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At ArCompany we are delving into the Future of Work and changes that organizations must adapt to; business continues to be challenged by the same cultural issues that have existed for over 40 years.

In this second BlendedGen Think Tank, we invited women to explore the topic: Evolution of Women in the Workforce. We addressed the strides that women have made in the workforce as well as the challenges they continue to face, both at work and in their personal lives.

Boomers, GenXers and Millennials came together to share their experiences. Are women really making significant advances? And how are they coping?

We asked our panelists to describe their current work environment and the percentage split between genders:

  • Tiffany Daniels – an older Millennial who works in the communications and community relations within the nonprofit sector. Tiffany works in an environment that comprises 90%female, with representation across all generations.
  • Samantha Estoesta Williams – a younger Millennial, who works in public interest research for a post secondary institution. She works with mostly Millennial females.
  • Lisa Thorell – a Boomer who currently runs her own digital marketing agency, and who has spent the bulk of her career in tech at Silicon Valley. In these environments she has held senior roles in start-ups and venture caps working in a male-dominated environment.
  • Laurie Dillon-Schalk – an older GenXer, who is Head of Planning for a small boutique ad agency that focuses on storytelling. Laurie’s experience includes IBM and digital agencies. While IBM was extremely diversified, the ad agency world tend to be younger with departments that have varying degrees of female representation. Executives in the ad world, however, are mostly male.
  • Karima-Catherine Goudiam – a middle GenXer, who owns her own digital agency, Karim has worked in consulting and legal environments in the past, which has been predominantly male oriented, especially at the leadership level.
  • Eden Spodek – a Boomer, who runs her own digital ad agency, works with partners who are mainly female. Her previous experience in agency saw male counterparts at the helm, while in her financial services background, she worked mainly with women in marketing and communications.

You can watch or listen to the entire hangout here or read the recap below:

Based on the most recent US Census Bureau data:

  • Women’s presence in the labor force has increased from 30.3 million in 1970 to 72.7 million by 2010. Based on percentages, that number risen from 43% in 1970 to 58% in 2010.
  • Women, however, continue to be overwhelmingly represented in occupations that are traditionally femal oriented: dental assistants, registered nurses, elementary and middle school teachers.
  • By 2010 the following positions have seen tremendous gains compared to 40 years earlier (caveat, while these gains are significant, the actual number of opportunities compared to those mentioned in the second bullet, is much lower): physicians, surgeons, lawyers, judges, law enforcement, civil engineers and pharmacists.
  • Women now have higher rates of university attendance than men. In 2010, 36% of women aged 25-29 attained at least an undergraduate degree compared to just 28% of their male peers.
  • Yet today, women are only paid $.78 for every dollar paid to men.


Are companies taking an active role in pushing gender-equality initiatives?

Everyone agreed that while there are initiatives that are driven by the highest levels of organizations, as per Karima, “it doesn’t trickle down at all.”  In the legal and consulting spaces, Karima stated that if a woman wanted to make partner, she had to “toughen up.” Samantha relayed her experience at a start-up, where she eventually had to leave,

… it’s a giant circle jerk for guys to say how they great they are… I saw this picture of a woman dressed in Victorian clothes saying, “I can’t believe we still have to protest this stuff”

For Tiffany, who works in a NFP organization, the PR department is mostly female. The leadership structure is mostly male. Quite often males would be fast tracked to senior levels. Females who were fortunate to make it into more senior roles do not necessary open doors for other females in the organization.

Lisa, who has seen changes throughout her career, continues to be ‘disgusted’ with the current status of women. Lisa offered these stats:

  • NCWIT: 41% of women leave tech companies after 10 years, compared to only 17% of men.
  • Who gets venture capital? All-male teams will garner six investments for every one that goes to a company headed up by a female.
  • UC Berkeley, 2014 study among employees of Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo! and Twitter revealed the overall female employment rate averaged 33%, dropping significantly for women in leadership and tech specific roles

As Lisa noted, Sheryl Sandburg’s book, “Lean-In” was “super white glove” and did not disclose the “egregious” stories of harassment and disrespect experienced by women especially within the tech sector.

Perhaps intimidation is a function of lack of confidence?

Eden, who teaches digital strategy to students ages 22- mid-60’s continues to see this trend: Women who doubt their abilities to perform well deliver work superior to their male classmates. The latter, on the other hand, are very articulate but their work is not reflective of how they speak.

For Samantha, male dominated environments have a direct impact on a woman’s self-confidence. Laurie concurred but added that in her case, “…knowledge is power…I have to stand up for myself [and call things out].” Laurie told of a situation where her agency won the Mazda account and she asked to be put on the account, only to be told that it was a “guy thing.”  Laurie advised her manager that he headed up Canadian Breast Cancer and Canesten accounts so,

…if you are handling boobs and vagina, I can handle a car…”

Lisa added, women are intimidated to go up to the board and participate–to show they’re knowledgeable and on top of the subject matter. And while I questioned whether this occurred in male-dominated environments only, Samantha was vociferous in her response:

I can take gossiping among women… but I have never experienced [in a female-dominated environment] someone literally talking over me and telling me my ideas are not valid… shooting me down and being intentionally hurtful so I don’t talk again.

Where women require support, or a friendly ear, there were a few panellists who spoke of groups, of which they are part, that allow sharing of challenges. Women in Tech communities like NYTechWomen, founded by Jenn Shaw, provides this haven that allows women, in predominantly male-oriented workplaces, to network and share experiences with other women.

Is the closing wage gap among Millennials indicative of progress?

I noted that compared to the overall average $.78 female wage to every dollar earned by males, for GenY, this rate is much better at $.85. But Samantha was quick to point out that inequity is displayed in other ways like the percentage of shares or project preferences. Tiffany noted that Millennials are still largely represented in the lower job levels so while the gap is smaller, the truth remains that those that are being promoted are still men.

Something we should realize is that male Boomers largely run government, and corporate so the prevailing mindset has not changed. Tiffany hopes to see a day when this will change but is hesitant,

…[ideally] promotions and raises will come when your work is recognized rather than me, taking it upon myself to ensure that I have properly catalogued my achievements and then go in and [the the initiative to] ask for a raise.

I know men who are full of themselves but that fake confidence works for them. I don’t know a lot of women who are able to tow the line between confident and bitchy. A douchebag still gets promoted. A bitch doesn’t.

Laurie was reminded of a time when she had to ask for a raise. An outgoing colleague coached her in her approach. Being bold and confident she threw a hefty number on the table, justifying the business she brought to the company. All along she feared that this approach would get her fired. Instead, she was heard. Is this a function of how women were reared? As emerging leaders, do women have to learn to hide their own insecurities when their nature is contrary to their actual behaviour?

Lisa noted that women are part of the problem. She relayed a study where professors were asked to rate competence based on two resumes. The only real difference was the name on the resume: Kirk and Jill. Professors rated Kirk twice as competent. However when this study was replicated in 2012, women professors judged the Jill to be less competent. “We are doing this to ourselves!

Is it more difficult to be the token female, realizing that you may be in a role because you are a woman?

This still hinders progress. In some cases, at digital conferences, women are represented as speakers because there is an expectation of at least one female voice. As well, in organizations, a token female will continuously be challenged to influence those more senior in the company.

For those who are caregivers (children, parents) does this impact your job? More importantly does this impact opportunities for advancement?

I shared the following statistic from the US Census Bureau:

Caring for others remains primarily a female responsibility… Nearly two out of three family caregivers are employed outside the home and nearly half live in households earning less than $44,100

Laurie noted that she clearly communicates she is a “committed mother.” She establishes boundaries that dissuade workers from booking her time off-hours. While this limits her exposure to opportunities, she is committed to maintaining this stance. When Eden decided to leave her 16-hour-a-day agency job, she was approached by younger women in the agency who echoed her efforts to be there for her family, but did not feel they had “permission” to stand up for themselves.

These days there are more males that will help carry the workload at home but women largely continue to be responsible for the home, the children and bringing home the second paycheck.


  • Progress seems elusive. As far as women have advanced, not enough opportunities have been necessarily presented to women. The economic conditions have increased women’s participation as a necessity to the two-income household.
  • While technology provides the most opportunities for employment, it continues to harness an environment that is not conducive for women to have a valid voice.
  • Where we would assume there would be increasing acceptance among Millennials, the divide not only widens, it is perpetuated because of the executive Boomers and GenXers at the helm.
  • Perhaps nurturing women through school, through mentorship and support networks will encourage women to garner more confidence.
  • Perception of women’s strength or confidence needs a redefinition.  Women need to be part of the solution and not the problem.
  • Women want to have it all.  Those that may rise to the top do so with sacrifice, whether it be the impact to the marriage or the relationship with kids. In the end women are compromising their own happiness.

On a future hangout, we will continue to explore this topic but focus on Women in Technology.

At ArCompany we  analyze data gathered from social media, websites, forums and search. This research helps inform and guide the communication efforts of many brands. If you want to learn more about implementing meaningful insights, we’re here to help.

Image source : Cima global

One thought on “Blended Generation Think Tank: Women in the Workforce – the Saga Continues….

  1. Joe Cardillo says:

    I think about that double bind that Tiffany and Laurie mentioned all the time. Negotiation is such a subtle thing, and there is no exact blueprint, which makes culture and systemic bias much more powerful. The middle ground is really important there – dynamics in a team or small department. There’s a good blog about this as it relates to the wage gap, too:

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