Women in the Workplace Series: Part II

This three part series will provide an in-depth look at the results of the 2023 “Women in the Workplace Community Survey” provided by REACH Women’s Network, exploring the importance of its findings and recognizing the opportunities and change women hope to see in our local workforce. REACH is an acronym for Recognize, Encourage, Advance, Connect Her. The nonprofit’s mission is to close the gender gap by raising the collective voice and influence of women in the workplace.

The professional journey of any woman in the modern workplace is going to look vastly different than not only their male counterparts, but often one another. Dependent on socioeconomic status, race, sexual identity, childcare and other factors, each woman faces specific and unique demands, challenges, and barriers as they work towards career advancement regardless of what industry they work in.

This past April, REACH conducted its first comprehensive study of its kind conducted in Forsyth County, with its survey designed to measure how working women in the community feel about issues such as workplace flexibility and benefits, company culture, job satisfaction, career advancement, work/life integration, and more. With 687 working women in Forsyth County participating, the results provided an up close understanding of what women in our community experience, as well as what they have their eyes on when it comes to the future of their careers. 

In this second part of the series, we’re diving into the subject of career advancement and the ways that women encounter unique obstacles on their path to progress.

Despite their talent, dedication, and qualifications, women often experience a disheartening array of negative impacts that impede their advancement, and this year’s survey results showed how women are feeling about their career opportunities. There are always different reasons behind the advancement gaps women experience but some of these could be unconscious biases, gender stereotypes, a lack of diverse representation in leadership roles offered and an assortment of other challenges.

Survey Results: A Look at Career Advancement for Forsyth Women

  • 30% say their gender/gender identity has had a negative impact on their career advancement; 28% said childcare responsibilities have had a negative impact (37% said the childcare question was not applicable to them.)
  • 80% say professional development is an absolutely essential or very important workplace benefit
  • 43% say they are satisfied with their employers’ advancement opportunities; 30% are dissatisfied
  • 53% say they are satisfied with the pace of their career advancement; 30% are dissatisfied
  • 43% say they are satisfied with employer’s hiring and advancement policies; 29% are dissatisfied
  • 44% say they are satisfied with their employer’s performance review process; 27% are dissatisfied

Opportunities for Employer Support & Change

Regardless of industry, employers are facing an opportunity to listen to what their female employees and potential employees want and need to create a career advancement path that benefits everyone involved. 

A large factor in career advancement is building a higher salary as promotions and responsibilities shift and grow. According to a similar study done by americanprogress.org, women’s earnings plateau midcareer, while men’s continue to climb. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that, “Earnings gaps are even larger for many women of color due to intersecting, systemic racial bias in the workplace. Median usual weekly earnings in 2022 were $835 for Black women working full time and $761 for Hispanic women, compared with $1,172 for white men.” Employers need to prioritize looking at their salaries across their employee landscape and seeing where there is opportunity to fairly distribute compensation for positions across genders. 

One of the largest factors when looking at reducing unequal career advancements among other professional attributes, is having diverse leadership positions that include women, when decisions are being made. Building intentional and consistent processes for employee performance reviews, advancement opportunities, and the handling of complaints in the workplace is absolutely necessary to seeing change for women.

We continue the work for what’s right. 

There have been generations that have poured into the cause of helping create equal rights for women in the workplace. Those contributions can be seen all around our country and on the path so many women have walked in their careers, but there is still improvement to be seen. Exploring these barriers in detail and shedding light on the improvements women are craving in their career paths are vital to working towards a more equitable and inclusive future for all women in the professional world.

If you are interested in learning more about the 2023 survey or receiving additional

information you can sign up for updates through the REACH website, reachwomensnetwork.org/survey.


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