Canadian organizations are unintentionally underestimating young women as being too young or not ready to assume increasingly more challenging leadership roles. And as a result, as a new report from the Conference Board of Canada reported, women are lowering their career expectations at a cost to both their own advancement and to the success of their organizations.
And yes, unfortunately this is still a topic we must face, particularly in the tech sector.
“This ‘unconscious bias’ means young women are consistently underestimated and overlooked, right from the outset of their careers,” said Conference Board of Canada’s Ruth Wright. “Organizations need to implement objective and transparent talent management practices that guard against unconscious bias. Otherwise, the effects are both cumulative and costly—for young women who are denied access to critical developmental opportunities, and for organizations that fail to recognize and develop top talent.”
The report said that more than a quarter of women aged 22 to 34 years are dissatisfied with their career progression, compared to 19 percent of men of the same age. They claimed that “the cumulative effect of unconscious bias” is that only six percent of women in this age range are in middle management or higher, versus 12 percent of men.
Interestingly, the report brought up the common stat that we all have heard, that more women are graduating with university degrees than man, nearly at all levels of postsecondary studies, and they’re finding jobs out of school. It gives the perception that gender barriers no longer exist. Unfortunately they do, and in technology and STEM fields, the numbers are even poorer.
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After about five years of working, millennial women (23-35) reported that they experience unequal opportunities for advancement. And they’re are less likely to be identified as “high potential” employees (45 percent) than their male peers (53 percent), even though they are more likely to be “high performers” (74 percent) than men (66 percent).
Women who are in the first years of their careers have fewer opportunities to be mentored, coached, take on job-rotation assignments, gain line management experience, or access professional development training. Nevertheless, they are more likely to take part in these opportunities when made available to them.
Lingering doubt over leadership abilities can serve to deflate the self-confidence and career advancement expectations of millennial women. More women (18 percent) than men (11 percent) said they can never reach their desired job level.
Overall, 27 percent of millennial women said they were dissatisfied with their career progression, compared to 19 per cent of men. For organizations, this results in higher employee turnover; almost two-thirds of millennial-age women said they plan to leave their current employer within five years, while half of millennial men said they planned to change employers in that timeframe.