12 Most Frustrating Obstacles Women Face In The Business World

12 Most Frustrating Obstacles Women Face In The Business World

When Google Plus launched, a few people commented that it seemed to be very heavily laden with testosterone. Early adopters tended to shrug that off. Many said, “Well I’ve seen tons of women in there.” But over the last couple of weeks, statistics have shown that Google Plus is dominated by men. This is stirring some talk, but the conversation is geared in a direction that won’t ultimately be helpful. See, the problem isn’t that there are more men showing kitty videos on Google Plus. The issue is that women are sorely under-represented in the online world, in the tech world, and in the business world.

Woah there. Before you start rolling your eyes, check out this post called Why Tech Already Has Women (and why they’re better than Arrington), by Geoff Livingston, this interview that Livingston did with Robert Scoble as a follow-up to that post, a post by Scoble himself about the lack of women in the tech world, and this post by Carol Roth asking where the women are at the business table.

I’m not making this up, in other words!

As a woman in the business world and in the online world, I wanted to give a voice to the 12 most frustrating obstacles I perceive or experience. I’d love to hear your take on this issue!

1. Successful women in the online world are classified as “chatty”

I was really surprised by this when I first started the social media part of my career. I’d see an article about how women rule the roost when it comes to the use of social media platforms, but the article would be a summary of how women love to talk and shop. While it’s true that a lot of women (and men, let’s be honest) probably use social media to socialize (or shop), saying that women are powerful in these arenas because women are “good talkers” is sucking air out of the success balloon. Women like Liz Strauss don’t need a pat on the head and a nod to “good talking skills.” There’s a lot more, so much more, going on there.

2. Powerful women are categorized as “bitchy”

In my experience, women who have powerful personalities, who stay strong in the face of criticism and who fight back, are often downgraded to the “she’s a bitch” group. Men do not seem to have a similar problem. If anything, a man who tends to fight back a lot is viewed as, well, a man.

3. How a woman looks matters more than what a woman does

Awhile back, there was an article in a publication (I can’t remember which one now) about some of the most powerful women on Twitter. All of the women were photographed wearing trench coats and “come hither” looks on their faces. Their legs were bare, hinting that there might not be a whole lot going under that coat in the clothing department. Is that how we need to present powerful women? To me, and I’m sure to other women, that was a real disappointment. I’ll bet it disappointed lots of men, too.

4. Oh crap, I have a womb.

A lot of articles I read note that women may not get along well in the business world because women can make babies. Women then want to spend time with those babies. Therefore, clearly, women cannot work as CEOs. I’ve always thought this was discriminatory against men, quite frankly. Don’t men want to spend time with their children? Don’t men want to be in the lives of their children? Yet somehow they manage to work full time jobs. Women can, too.

5. The perception that women don’t have the right make-up for business

I’ve heard this in a few different places in a few different ways. “Women are soft and gentle, business is cold and mean.” Trust me, women can be ruthless if they want to be.

6. The “You slept your way to the top” problem

This is another bothersome phenomenon. When a woman makes it to the higher echelons of a company, people may whisper (or shout) that she must have slept her way to the top. Or people may say, “Wow, who did she sleep with to get that position?” Saying these things, even jokingly, doesn’t just demean that woman. It bespeaks a sentiment that women really aren’t capable of success unless the horizontal mambo is involved. Surely there is more to a woman’s success than that.

7. Women are compared to other women, not to the group as a whole

I’ve had these types of conversations with women and men a lot over the last year. Why are there lists of “top women” bloggers or tweeters or whatevers? You don’t often see a list that names the top 25 male bloggers. My personal preference would be to see a fully integrated list. Top dudes, top women, all mixed together. While knowing where I stand amongst other women is fine with me, the reality is that the business world I want to succeed in consists of both genders. I want to know where I stand in the business world, not in the women’s corner.

8. Disrespecting women is still okay

There are still FAR too many stories about women who were putting themselves out there, trying to gain respect and professional momentum, only to find that they were inundated with inappropriate conversation or other forms of disrespect or even harassment. While there are a lot of great voices, male and female, who are crying out against these incidents, it still happens. It’s still out there. And I fear it is holding women back. Who wants to have to deal with that kind of stuff when you’re just trying to make an honest living? It’s a real bummer.

9. The “women just aren’t as good as men at…” echo chamber

Young men get away with a lot of things because people respond, with knowing glances, “Ah, boys will be boys.” Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of times people have these views that women just aren’t good at some things because women are women. Women aren’t good at science or math. Women aren’t as good at remembering statistics. Women aren’t as good with technology. These kinds of views are sadly being passed on to the young women in our society. It shouldn’t be a big deal that a young lady wins a science award just because she’s a lady. But it is, isn’t it?

10. The most common ways to enhance business relationships are male-oriented

This is kind of a chicken and the egg problem. When you think about “wining and dining,” you probably think about things like sports events, golf, or fishing. While I’m fine going to sports games (go Cleveland!), it’s difficult, I think, for women to socialize with men in a business way in these kinds of environments. It’s not because women don’t like these things. It’s because men are used to doing these things with men. Women probably wouldn’t have success inviting men to their Stitch ‘n Bitch groups either. The old methodologies of building business relationships need to increase in flexibility so that women can get more than a toe in the door.

11. Women get in each others’ way

I’ve talked to a lot of women about this. Maybe there’s a male counterpart, but it really seems to me that women are more ruthlessly competitive with each other than they are with men. In fact, when I was in high school, it was a female coach who said that I shouldn’t be allowed on the Academic Challenge team because “girls aren’t competitive enough.” Try wrapping your head around that conundrum! While a lot of women are equally supportive of both genders, there is often this feeling that women need to outdo each other. I think the “women only” lists fuel these sentiments. “I want to be the top woman on that list of women.” It’s very painful to watch when these kinds of interactions flare up. No one wins.

12. It’s too easy to not take women seriously

For some reason, it seems easy for men in the business world or the online world to dismiss women, especially if that woman is voicing opinions that aren’t going down too smoothly. There are all kinds of possible reasons for this. Maybe that particular woman is judged by how she looks. Maybe what she is saying isn’t matching with the perception of her is at that moment. Maybe people just aren’t used to hearing a woman speak intelligently about that particular topic. Whatever it is, too often women are faced with a kind of “Isn’t she cute” mentality. It is the single most disarming factor I have witnessed in the business world.

I know that this is not an easy topic. I know that it’s also very easy to say, “Oy, why can’t we just leave it alone and everyone can do their best?” There’s this feeling sometimes, I think, that if women would just shut up about these things and do their best, there wouldn’t be a problem. But I don’t know. It just seems like there is too much of a gap. It seems like the glass ceiling is still there, and while there might be some hairline fractures in it, it’s still pretty well intact. And if we keep ignoring that…if we keep applauding how far we’ve come instead of pushing towards where we want to go, how will things ever get better?

What do you think?

Feature image courtesy of Gryphus31 licensed via creative commons.

Margie Clayman

http://www.margieclayman.com/

Marjorie Clayman (@margieclayman) is the Director of Client Development at her family's 58-year-old marketing firm, Clayman Advertising, Inc. Margie is the resident blogger at www.margieclayman.com and is the resident librarian at www.thebloglibrary.com. Margie's writing has been featured on pushingsocial.com, problogger.net, convinceandconvert.com, and dannybrown.me. Margie has recently published an e-book called The ABC’s of Marketing Myths. Margie is still not used to talking about herself in the third person but is working on it.

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113 comments
SoumyaChandrashekar
SoumyaChandrashekar

I am so grateful for this article you wrote. I was in such a black mood when I started googling for disrespect against women at the workplace. Women just get dismissed coz its all between the boys you know and it is frustrating!! You know you are competent but just because you are a women you are suddenly just 'not so competent' what the hell! *phew* ok.. now i have my breath back. thank you. 


the social aspect of the business really does need to change so women can get a toe in.. and god forbid women have an opinion that questions status quo.. "all the easier to dismiss you dear" comes to mind.. gah!

CCelli73
CCelli73

Great post, and I agree that there is still a glass ceiling intact. Hopefully we'll make a few more cracks in it, but it'll probably still be there in one form or another. Women do have a firmly planted foot in the business world, though. And we have our strengths, too, in ways that men don't. Women make better business people a lot of the time, because of our sense of empathy, and our natural desire to please others. We take the time to nurture relationships, when men won't take that kind of time because they don't think it's necessary. We have a tendency to be tenacious sales leaders, and to be able to maintain relationships with our clients until we retire. It's all because we take the time to listen and are more apt to admit when changes need to be made within ourselves.

softdove
softdove

the one i hear from men... is that wereas a man will live and let live in some circumstances... a woman...will NEVER forget... and payback is a bitch... !

KlaudiaJurewicz
KlaudiaJurewicz

great post!

I watched over 150 TV/on-line commercials last week, and let me just say that women are "presented" (in most cases) in one way - "you don't have to be smart as long as you look good and stay in the kitchen". Tho I can notice that it's changing over the years but still it's changing so slow.

PragPsych
PragPsych

@AnnTran_ How about this one: difficulty separating emotions from reality.

alexisasbe
alexisasbe

i have been in business since i was 20 and successful (by most peoples definition). my (asian) mother was a wildly successful vp of finance for one of the worlds largest air freight companies at 37 years old. she negotiated on behalf of us with japan and china and worked her a$$ off. never once did i hear her complain about being a woman or these challenges. i do agree that these challenges are real for people; however "our perception is our reality." we need to look at why do we see things the way we do.

peace.

kathysteele
kathysteele

Wow! This is certainly a hot topic and a well written post @margieclayman .Thanks to @deleted_91832_Sean McGinnis for the kind words about @helenlevinson and I in your post.

I guess having been an entrepreneur at age 27 I have seen it all in the last 20 years! (Did I just give away my age?)

Truly I feel like things have come a long way since my early career. Being a woman never seemed to put me at a disadvantage, actually it was the contrary, many men have been amazing, generous role models and mentors to me.

Sure I have seen injustice in the business world, been overlooked for positions, or dealt with a “bitchy” female client (she was truly bitchy!) and had to deal with sexual harassment but I always viewed these as learning experiences not obstacles. Guess that’s just my upbringing! My dad was a strong influence in my life and career and he never let me feel sorry for myself too long or think, “that’s for boys”!

I am truly inspired by the new women of technology and young women who choose to run their own show. I think our younger peers have such a sense of confidence and are less bound by traditional stereotypes.

I will leave you with… I just met a young lady last week that has a great career in technology and her husband is the stay at home dad. She left a prior job when her boss overlooked her for a promotion due to her gender. While the thought of her being overlooked upset me – I actually could not believe this Neanderthal attitude still existed - but what I took away was, she made a change. She had the confidence to know she was better than that.

I think everyone has obstacles it’s all in how you maneuver past them that counts.

yomikomu
yomikomu

Adding to 4 - Not all women are interested in making babies.

girlygrizzly
girlygrizzly

HOLY SMOKES @MargieClayman ! What? You are writing about me! I read this entire post with my mouth hanging open! I had no idea you wrote it- I went back up to see, before I even read the comments! You all know so much more about this world I've burst in on! I have watched my own life and directions change..HERE.

You have described with such goose-bump-accuracy the issues I face... I am just speechless. I am just over 5' 3" tall. Where I live and work, the life I feel as strongly about as I do about this journey I am on... it is absolutely "A MAN'S WORLD". It just is.

That does not say there are not OUTSTANDING and incredibly~impressive women in the field.. and have been for many, many years. And they, as well, are listed as WOMEN. My experience here on line, has of course multiplied my reach to other women in fabulous ways, and still. As a whole, you are exactly right

~ I have been referred to as a LOUD-MOUTHED-STUPID-UGLY-FAT-MAN-WANNA-BE-SLUT-WHO-HAS-DELUSIONS-OF-GRANDEUR-AND" I'LL BOOK A HUNT WITH YOU, JUST COME ON OVER TO THE HOTEL WE'RE AT AND WHY NOT TAKE A DIP IN THE POOL", "She is so righteous, do you see the cannon she carries? HOT!"

Give. Me (and the rest of the female population). A. Break.....Seriously.

~Thanks, Margie, I guess (looking back over my comment) I needed a good rant! ~Amber-Lee

DixieLil
DixieLil

@margieclayman So much has been written and speculated about this. In a 2010 Times article, I read that women earned 77 cents to the male dollar; (the survey is from 2008), for a variety of reasons. I agree that these are all frustrating points, but I hesitate to generalize that all women encounter all of these problems, after reading the comments of successful women business owners and entrepeneurs who have posted here. In terms of women shaving off some of the harrassment in the workplace, should we stop wearing make-up, wear baggy clothes and comfy shoes, so we look plain, but have genius business mettle, and will then be taken seriously? Wouldn't it also be great if men could take off for baby and child care, so that their wives could really storm up the ladder and break the glass ceiling? I think we've come a long way, but that also, the more things change, the more things stay the same.

rebecca.lee.bauman
rebecca.lee.bauman

As a female engineer, I can't speak too much to the "business world", but I can speak to the technical world. Institutions such as SWE (Society for Women Engineers) and the like have always unsettled me a little, as useful and well-intentioned as they clearly are for so many people. Why? Because I do not think of myself as a "Female Engineer" I just think of myself as an Engineer. Being tossed into a group like that bothers me.There are a lot of behaviors I see amongst my female colleagues that make me cringe. For example, it's easy to cross the line from friendly into flirty. It's easy to dress in a way that makes you look more like you're husband-shopping instead of working. It's easier to let a puffed-up jerk treat you like a secretary than it is to speak up and shut him down. I have a pretty strong personality (and have probably been classified as a bitch more than once because of it) and so don't have too much trouble with harassment and the like (I find that looking them in the eye and making some ridiculous physical threat that can't be taken seriously if they ask me out again works really well), but not everyone does.

Clothing is one of my personal conundrums. Dress nicely and you can't possibly be a serious Engineer. Dress casually and you're a slob. It's enough to make one insane.

What are the messages we want to send at work? How can we make a space in the human psyche to allow us to send and receive these messages? What can I wear to work that says "I'm a serious Engineer. Really." when that archetype doesn't even exist yet for women? How can I behave that says "I'm professional, serious, but friendly"?

TrueTitansNews
TrueTitansNews

@DigitalMktgGirl Women That Block Other Women Is Common, Women Are Raised To Compete Against Other Women, Men Are Raised To Just Kick...

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

GREAT piece, Margie!!! Being the female partner of a husband/wife firm the list you just outlined is witnessed here. One I would add is that women in tech are "ditzy"! Its appalling that men think women dont "get tech" or even worse that I am a Mom & women in tech! I am not a programmer, but being the VP of Business Development, I damn well better get tech or there goes our business! But, there are plenty of women programmers out there that rock!

In our family, we have 2 daughters & 1 son. The son smack in the middle. He has been taught from day 1 that they are equal, and I think his older sister is definitely showing him that women can be the boss! LOL! But, also I think him seeing on a daily basis that his parents are a team making this business work will help him appreciate the fact that women are his equals (at least thats our hope!).

snaps4life
snaps4life

@meghanmbiro anytime ;) really think it's important to be aware of those obstacles so we can make progress to overcome them. cc: @12most

prosperitygal
prosperitygal

Yes Margie between how women dobubt themselves in numerous ways and how easy everyone makes it to disrespect them is the crux in my opinion.

What is even more disappointing is to hear one message come out young women's mouth "We have all the same opportunities as men" in pubic and behind the scenes to their mentors it is a whole different story. So until women are willing to stop lying to themselves and the rest of the world that we are not OK with how things are then it will continue to grow like mold on a pond unused.

We do not have equal rights or pay and until we believe in ourselves enough to hold honest conversations and then take actions in alignment with the goals for improvement we will have these issues continue.

Why do women continue to support conferences and events that do not give them equal standing on the stage to present and speak?

Why do women continue to purchase products from companies that do not communicate with them respectfully?

Thanks for giving us another avenue Margie to have an open discussion, now what actions are we willing to take to be a change?

BTW I would love to hear your thoughts on one of the other 12 most where I asked about the most common mistakes women make in business. Could there be a correlation?

blee
blee

I have a co-worker (a woman) who was appalled when I told her I wasn't planning on becoming a stay-at-home mom after I had children. All her daughters were stay-at-home mothers who simply stopped their professional lives as soon as the child came into the picture and basically just relied on their husbands. I don't disagree with this, but it's not for me and definitely not for everyone. I did NOT go to college and get a degree to work 5 years or so and decide to stop and be restricted to cleaning house! My mom owned her own business when I was growing up and she was an AMAZING mother and businesswoman at the same time. She's the main reason why I am so ambitious and independent.

Milaspage
Milaspage

I think that we need to start viewing ourselves as people, not women or men, in doing this you can really avoid falling into the idea of how difficult or how challenging things are for women. I respect these issues, i see them, but i pretty much just move forward and pay no heed. If you are an individual who lives by these ideas (and by you I mean men who say these things about women, or women who feel defeated by these statements) then I would rather not even work in your organization. I will lead change, and to lead change, I must be where open minded gender free judgements are made. So, in regard to what @alexisasbe said above, 100% your mom probably forged forward and she was successful, as any human being will be when they apply themselves, do their best and place themselves where they need to be the change. Women - have thick skins - give it your best and dont waiver and you will be sought after not for looks, or other ridiculous things but for your mind, for your passion for your unique perspective. Everyone is different, MEN and WOMEN, our different approaches balance things out. I agree with you Margie the glass ceiling is there, lets move forward, do our best and blow it away. Maybe we cant do it for everyone, but we can do it, one person at a time with dedication and focus on the job, not what holds us back. Yes I am an idealist, but I am successful, i manage people, a lot of women, and i promise you they arent being held back. I person at a time. Go for it.

abydos641
abydos641

@yomikomu Second that. It's very frustrating to be judged simply because my body has the ability to reproduce, and very hard to explain that I won't ever have children. I'm not interested in being a mother. I've been shunned by other women because of it, and given "yea right" looks from men. Thankfully that isn't the usual response I encounter.

margieclayman
margieclayman

@DixieLil I certainly agree that not all women face these issues. Some women are completely free (or not aware of) any biases whatsoever. Like I said, these things are all viewed through our own prisms of experience. I just wanted to shoot some sparks into the conversation :)

margieclayman
margieclayman

@rebecca.lee.bauman That's a fantastic comment, Rebecca. Women only groups unsettle me as much as men only groups. I don't think either gender gains anything by screening out the other. To me it just says, "Fine, we'll go our separate ways." But that isn't really going to work, is it? I hope not!

Clothing is definitely tough. Check out Daria Giron's executive image series at mominmanagement.com. She, along with several other bloggers including myself, spent about 7 posts just tackling that issue.

Craziness abounds.

margieclayman
margieclayman

@sydcon_mktg sorry to hear you have to put up with that crap, but by the same token, it sounds like it's giving you that extra motivation to keep your son on the straight and narrow.

I am not really sure where the myth started that women and tech don't mix. I read a book about the intertwining of women and advertising earlier this year and it pointed out that all of the new technology - new washers, new vacuum cleaners - were aimed at women. It created a real conundrum because companies were saying women could get tech, but only if it had to do with housekeeping. Tough line to draw there, no? :)

margieclayman
margieclayman

@prosperitygal Hi Michele. That's a great point. A lot of people don't mention that they're working from a disadvantage until someone tells them they're not doing a good job. Then the excuses flow. The unfortunate thing is that this creates a "boy who cried wolf" reaction, when in reality it can be entirely true.

I will definitely check out your post and look for correlations between what you said and what I said here.

Thanks!

margieclayman
margieclayman

@blee This is where I think women can really get into each others' way. The societal pressure on women to stay home and be with their children is immense, and I think the gap is widening between women who choose to work as stay-at-home moms and women who choose to work away from home or in a business setting. There are PLENTY of benefits for both ways of life. It should be up to the woman and her family how she will live her life (my opinion anyway) :)

rebecca.lee.bauman
rebecca.lee.bauman

@margieclayman It sure does. Cultural note: A lot of Europeans are completely puzzled by the gender-splitting. I've found it interesting to peek into how other cultures approach and handle gender equality.

blee
blee

@deleted_91832_Sean McGinnis Absolutely! We definitely live in a world where we have SO many decisions to choose from and I do agree that choosing to stay home is a case-by-case decision that is still an honorable one. I'm sure your wife is a fabulous mother:) I was just surprised that this coworker disapproved with the whole idea of working AND being a mother at the same time. We're all different, which is a beautiful thing in my book. So assuming that certain genders have to fit certain roles doesn't seem to be the most appropriate mentality. We all have the freedom to decide on what role we want to play now, which is great!

margieclayman
margieclayman

@blee@deleted_91832_Sean McGinnis My mom was always frustrated that "stay-at-home mom" was synonymous with "unemployed." Women who stay home to take care of the children and their household have to multi-task more than any woman in a professional setting, I'd wager. And they have to change diapers!

I sometimes feel that women who have families look down on me because I'm focusing on my career right now. So it goes both ways.

I'd also posit that men are being shown that they can be just as devoted to their kids as women can - so in that way, I see the choices expanding.

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  1. […] 12 Most Frustrating Obstacles Women Face In The Business World | 12 Most Margie Clayman shares a dozen frustrating obstacles women still face in business. Source: 12most.com […]

  2. […] 12 Most Frustrating Obstacles Women Face In The Business World | 12 Most Margie Clayman shares a dozen frustrating obstacles women still face in business. Source: 12most.com […]

  3. […] disparity is all the more head-shaking because more women than ever are earning higher educational degrees, […]

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