It may be 2017, but women still face major hurdles in job-searches. Think: unconscious bias, traditionally male-dominated fields, and even the gender wage gap—that their male peers simply do not. Let that stew for a second and then commit to break those barriers down—starting with our next job search. Ready? Here are seven common barriers you may face as a woman, and exactly what to do about them.
1. Discriminating job ads. If you’ve ever read a job ad and thought, this just doesn’t sound like it’s for me, you may be reading the ad just how you were meant to read it. “Job ads [contain] language that is largely geared toward men,” warns Generation Y career expert Heather Huhman. (Don’t believe us? Check out this alarming study.) But just because the ad was written in a masculine way doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply. “Instead, show employers those traits aren’t limited to men alone,” Huhman encourages.
2. The wage gap. Believe it or not, the gender wage gap begins its assault on your bank account during your job search—even before you’ve landed an interview, says Monster‘s career expert Vicki Salemi. Here’s how: If you apply to a job online and are prompted to put in a salary requirement, you might be tempted to close the gap then and there by demanding what you’re worth—only to be disqualified up-front by a recruiter who’s not willing to pay top-dollar to a faceless person. So instead, Salemi says, put in $1 or the lowest amount the field will allow you to submit. Then come prepared to your interview ready to close the gender wage gap with your skills and experience, she says.
3. Not negotiating salary during job offers. Speaking of that pesky gender wage gap, you won’t close it unless you come to your interview prepared to negotiate up from your initial offer. But studies show women simply don’t negotiate salary offers as often as men do. “Women have a strong tendency to accept the first offer and feel lucky that they got that much,” says Dawn Rasmussen, certified resume writer and founder of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services. However, “negotiation is expected, and not doing it can hurt your integrity and set you further back on your earnings.” So, take the time to learn how to negotiate, now. You can get started here.
4. Your family status. You’ve made it to the interview, and you’re totally prepared to discuss how you’ve kicked butt your entire career, but all the hiring manager can think to talk about it when or even if you plan on having kids. Let’s stop there: “This is not only a barrier, it’s downright discrimination,” says Salemi. But you can prepare for this kind of ridiculous inquiry long before you score the interview by preparing a boilerplate reaction, something like, “I’d prefer to answer questions directly related to the job,” Salemi says. “Technically, that’s the reality and that’s why the questions are illegal.”
5. Employment gaps. Whether you take time off to have a baby or travel the world, women are simply more likely to have employment gaps in their resumes, which can raise red flags to employers, Huhman warns. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take maternity leave or snatch up tickets during big flight sales. “The key is to show employers how you continued to learn and grow during your time away from work,” says Huhman. And if becoming a mother doesn’t seriously grow your multitasking acumen—or a trip to a foreign country doesn’t enhance your communication skills—we don’t know what would.
6. Your self-esteem—or lack thereof. We know many women who question whether they’re really good enough to do a certain job. (Of course, some men do this, too.) In fact, they may even talk themselves out of applying if they’re too worried about their resumes. “Too many times, women will go through a hand-wringing process of how much, if at all, they are qualified for jobs,” says Rasmussen. “They simply go for it and reach for the brass ring. Women need to have a conversation with themselves about whether or not they possess the major qualifications of a target job, but then give themselves permission to apply anyway. Men definitely do this, and women need to move to this line of thinking. Self-doubt is a career and job search killer.”
7. Tired stereotypes. Salemi tells the story of how she once went after a job as a part-time blogger for a major league baseball team only to be brushed off in the interview, because a woman couldn’t possibly know anything about baseball, let alone like it. “Throughout the interview I had to constantly prove myself and my extensive knowledge,” she says. And depending on the job you want, you too may face this stereotype barrier. “Prove them wrong,” Salemi encourages. “Don’t let it hold you back during your search and during the interview, and don’t be afraid to walk away. In this case, I asked myself if I would feel comfortable working there and the answer was no. It ended up being a good experience to grow from.”