Many, though not all, of my career coaching clients are women. I think about why that is alot. It seems like higher ed women seek out career coaching more frequently than men. And a big part is probably because they are more willing to ask for and accept help.
But I also know it’s because women continue to face more upward obstacles than men.
Anecdotes and my clients don’t necessarily add up to data trends, but almost every client I help right now is a mid-career woman looking for growth, advancement, more pay, and a bigger role. Single women in their 30s looking for a chance to lead. Mid-career parents looking for work that will help them move from transactional tasks into long-term planning and strategy roles. Women who have put in 15 or more years in their fields….still waiting for their turn to lead.
In the graduate-level leadership courses at work, I look around at the cohort. I see a room full of men in their late 30s/early 40s and women around 52. Why is that? It takes women too long to advance.
I help my clients look for employers locally if they can’t relocate. I help them research potential employers across the nation if they know what their targeted “next” is but have to go find it in another higher ed. I help my clients think and talk through their personal needs so that they can articulate what it would take to feel more supported holistically. I help connect them to entrepreneurial mentors for those who want to learn more about doing their own thing.
Women are trying to problem solve these issues for themselves. And to some extent, I think people feel most empowered to own and succeed in their careers with confidence when they steer the path. But my inbox is chock full of women clients desperate to gain some foothold ahead where they work now. They have been trying. They have been proving themselves time and again. They have been bending over backwards to do, and to be “enough” to warrant a promotion. And many of them, while parenting during a pandemic, while also teaching college students themselves.
Let’s not forget that career coaching also costs money. And it is well worth the investment as it is just that. An investment in one’s future, an investment that helps you achieve what you want out of your career. But it’s not lost on me that my women clients are doing and giving more than they should in an effort to get rewarded and advanced, aching to be more, to do something more meaningful – but spending a greater proportion of the less they earn to problem solve this for themselves.
I am grateful for the opportunity and honored to be anyone’s career coach. I believe that women clients in particular seek me out because I get it. I have scrappily scrambled my way upward, and it’s still hard. I know what it’s like to get passed over. I know what it’s like to have to take a lateral move because there is no up. I know what it’s like to look across the country because where you are now….there’s just dead ends. And I know what it feels like to have put in your time, and your effort, only to start to see the next generation advance farther…and faster. And I know what it’s like to need things to be AND instead of OR – to still need to rock your career and caregive for others.
This question: whether more women seek coaching because they need help advancing, or because women are more willing to ask for help? Really smells like a chicken and the egg problem, across all of higher ed.
Women need career coaches because they need to circumvent the system they work in because their employers don’t champion and make possible their advancement. Higher ed women are incredibly bright go-getters, and need to advance faster and more often to keep skills and knowledge sharp.
This trend suggests the leaky pipeline of women “falling out” of the faculty track…are also not making significant headway en masse in forging their way upstream in the staff tracks either.
If you are a woman in your profession, and are frustrated and ready to move up…or on, I get it. Let me hear from you. Let me know what it’s like. Let me know what your battles look like. I love to hear from my readers.