When making a job switch, women are more likely to bring their success with them to the new company. Unlike men. At least according to an article in this month’s Harvard Business Review:
“Unlike their male counterparts, female stars (189 women, 18% of the star analysts in the original study) who switched firms performed just as well, in the aggregate, as those that stayed put.”
“Though female stars adopt these career strategies as a way to overcome institutionalized norms that put them at a disadvantage, their strategies are not a second-best alternative. Rather, they constitute a powerful skill set from which any manager would do well to learn. The star performer study focused on one labor market–Wall Street analysts–but the challenges these women face are similar to those in other knowledge-based industries, such as management consulting, health care, public relations, advertising and the law. Some of the female stars’ actions were designed to help them advance within their firms, and only incidentally increased their portability; others were deliberately adopted to ensure that they would be able to succeed elsewhere. Either way, the strategies of star women can help both men and women enhance their ability to shine in any setting.”
What makes the difference? Why are women more capable of building skills that can travel from one employer to the next?
(1) They focus on building relationships outside their current firm, rather that relying on internal relationships. “By contrast, male analysts built up greater firm- and team-specific human capital, investing more in the internal networks and unique capabilities and resources of the firms where they worked.”
(2) They take greater care when assessing a prospective employer. “They evaluated their options more cautiously and analyzed a wider range of factors than men did before deciding to uproot themselves from a company where they were already successful. Female star analysts, it would seem, take their work environment more seriously yet rely on it less than male stars do. They look for a firm that will allow them to keep building their successful franchises their own way.”
Although it unacknowledged, the bottom line is that there is still sexism in the workplace. To overcome this persistent inequality, women must employ “creative strategies” to succeed. One of these creative strategies is finding a wardrobe balance. As ridiculous as this is, “women in positions of authority, from Washington to Wall Street, face fashion scrutiny that’s so intense it can border on comical,” according to an article in the Wall Street Journal last week.
“The attention brought to clothing is a two-edged sword for authoritative women everywhere. A style misstep can be career-limiting. Yet paying too much attention to one’s appearance risks accusations of frivolity–which is equally career-limiting.”
With the challenges that face women in the workplace, it is a wonder we have ever succeeded. But women are intuitive, smart, and adaptive; if we figure out what we want, we will figure out how to get it. I have seen the evidence. Our agency, Stone Ward, is woman-owned and Millie Ward has overcome these challenges to build a successful advertising agency. And, I am proud that we have a viable female candidate for president this year. Maybe one day we won’t have to have discussions about the different challenges that men verses women face in the workplace; instead we will just have discussions about workplace challenges.