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How Young Women Can Overcome Obstacles in the Corporate World

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Kristen Sieffert for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

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Sometimes, you realize that you can’t reach your full potential until you walk away from your current path.

That’s what happened to me when I reached the VP level at a former company. Despite the results I produced, and my abilities, hustle, and expertise, there wasn’t a next step for me at the organization. Countless other female employees felt the same. Our careers were capped.

I’d love to say that this is an anomaly. Unfortunately, it’s not — particularly in traditionally male-dominated fields like finance. As recently as 2021, Deloitte research showed that women make up fewer than one-quarter of the leaders at financial institutions, and historically, women have been held to higher and unfair standards across industries. As a result, it can be more challenging for us to meet and exceed the expectations that are set for us at work.

To the point, the World Economic Forum reports that recommendation letters are often fraught with gender bias, as are professional referrals, chances at tenure, and performance evaluations. Even I, a woman, have been guilty of unconscious bias. Not long ago, I went to a car dealership and was approached by a young woman. My reaction? I told her I wanted to see the salesperson. She was the salesperson. At that moment, I realized how deeply ingrained internalized misogyny can be.

Thankfully, this problem is slowly fading. Already, younger millennials are experiencing less gender-related occupational segregation, according to Stanford University research. That’s a sign that things are moving in the right direction. But that doesn’t mean change is going to come easy. 

Despite the obstacles women — and especially young women — face when attempting to move up the corporate ladder, we are not powerless. Yes, there is always more that leadership can and should be doing systemically, but while that work is in progress, here are ways we can buck the trends and claim our space in the corporate world.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Kristen Sieffert is a purpose-driven leader, passionate about finding ways to inspire others to dream bigger and create the lives of their dreams. In her current role as president of Finance of America Reverse (FAR), Kristen is committed to providing actionable retirement solutions to individuals so that they can experience better outcomes and more joy during their golden years.



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