Ever since greater numbers of women started moving into the workforce over the past few decades, some changes have been made to address their unique needs and challenges in the workplace, such as adoption of sexual harassment policies, making daycare available, and instituting flextime, to name just a few. Now we are beginning to see more of the complex issues that confront these women in their prime working years or as they near retirement.
If you are female, this group may include you. But no matter which gender you are, you can expect to see more clients struggling with these problems and opportunities.
You may be able to approach some of these issues the same way you would with a male client. In other cases, the challenges are unique to women. Here are some examples, with suggested ways to handle them.
I’m in my 40s and have worked in a mid-size financial planning firm for eight years. My performance reviews have been good and I love the place, but my requests for promotion to partner seem to fall on deaf ears. Since there are no other women partners, I’m wondering if I’ve hit a glass ceiling. Should I make a big fuss about it, or leave? The first question I would ask is whether you’ve requested advancement in the most assertive, direct, and self-respecting way possible.
Many women are conditioned to be accommodating and not make waves. In a business environment, this often means they suppress their power for fear of displeasing a superior. While researching my financial guide for women, Money Shy to Money Sure, I found that in almost all cases women sought a win-win outcome when they negotiated for a raise or promotion, focusing on the boss’s happiness instead of placing their own interests first.
If you feel you have been forthright and asser-tive and have clearly documented your contributions to the firm’s success, you could be right that there are no further opportunities for you there. Much as you love it, you may want to start looking for another workplace that visibly supports and promotes capable women.
In all likelihood, checking out other job options will make you feel more appreciated and less desperate, even if you decide to give your current employer one more shot.
An entrepreneur client of mine is eager to have her daughter take over the business. However, the young woman has watched her mother work so hard for years that she wants no part of it. My client has asked me to help change her daughter’s mind. How should I respond to this? If you’re willing to serve as a mediator in this situation, be sure you understand the central issue.
For instance, if the daughter fears becoming mired in the heavy workload that has consumed her mother, how realistic is her concern? Some businesses, of course, demand a more intense focus than others (attorneys and advertising agencies come to mind). Is that the case with this company? Or is it the mother’s personality that has dictated her long hours?
If your client agrees, you might get together with her daughter to explore ways of running the business in a more balanced, limit-setting way. Perhaps a short-term trial period could be arranged.
But maybe the daughter has no real aptitude for running a business or no interest in this particular field. The issue then is your client’s insistence on having her child follow in her footsteps. You will need to help her let go, manage her disappointment, and find another way to pass on her work legacy. Whatever the outcome, you will have served both your client and her daughter well by helping them sort out this matter.
I’m 38 and have been working in a financial management firm for the past 15 years. My father died last year, and my mother is failing fast. I’d like to take a hiatus from work to care for her, but am worried that it could be the death knell for my career. What can I do to help protect my future marketability? There are no magic potions for this very real concern, but I encourage you to do whatever is necessary to feel at peace with caring for your mother.
If your firm will grant you a temporary leave of absence, it will no doubt help ease your return later on. However, if your only choice is to quit in order to take care of your mother, you may be able to keep a toe in the water by attending professional meetings and giving speeches or writing articles about your financial specialty.
You’ll need to line up some support for your mom and for yourself in order to do this. But that’s a good idea, anyway. Caring for an ailing parent can quickly deplete you if you do it 24 hours a day. Find out about respite care that can give you time off. Taking short breaks, staying in touch with supportive friends and family members, and keeping some contact with your former professional life will all be vital for your own mental health and physical stamina.
If you know other advisors who dropped out to handle a family matter and then successfully returned to a professional position, get together with them to discuss how they managed not to stray too far off the career path. The task may be challenging, but it seems eminently feasible.