Women strive for equality in business

Ellie Enselein

Besides earning 78 cents to every dollar a man earns, women also face significant barriers to holding executive positions in business. But some business leaders recommend women use networking, creating clear goals and asking for what they want to close the gap.

According to the Center for American Progress, women hold 52 percent of all entry-level professional jobs, but only 14.6 percent are executive officers and only 8.1 percent are top-earners in their field.

Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” believes that women have been taught to be reserved with their ambitions and goals.

Sandberg’s idea is backed by the fact that out of 4,000 employees surveyed at big companies, 36 percent of men said they wanted to be CEO, but only 18 percent of women had the same goal.

A McKinsey study shows a man believe his success comes from his skills and accomplishments while a woman says she got to where she is with luck and support from others.

Lisa Beaufait, president and CEO at TRAC Solutions, LLC, said she believes that the best way for women to get ahead in the business world is to “reach for help and be clear what it is they want to do.”

She said asking for help can be difficult, but there is something to be learned from everyone.

“Asking for help is strength,” she said.

Anyone in the industry with experience can be a vital connection and can help women further their careers.

Beaufait suggested a woman in business map out where she wants to see her career go and how she can get there. Visualizing the success can help learn where possible connections can be made.

Asking for help isn’t the only way women can make connections in the business world. Lisa Waite, owner and president of Waite Communication and Professional Development, LLC, said she encourages women to show their leadership skills in any position.

A woman doesn’t “have to be a decision maker to display leadership,” said Waite, who also teaches communication studies at the Stark campus.

She said she encourages women to speak up in all committees and positions they hold. People all bring different strengths to the table, and she said the “spirit of collaboration” can help make everyone stronger.

The medical industry is another field that women lack in representation. Lisa Aurilio, vice president of patient services and the chief nursing officer at Akron Children’s Hospital, said that most hospital boards are comprised of men.

“The chief nurse (chief nursing officer) is one of the few women who sit at the table in a hospital,” Aurilio said. It is increasingly important that women support each other in positions of power.

Aurilio said she believes success for women in business comes from networking.

Aurilio said women need to “be comfortable with developing political savvy” in the workplace. It is impossible to advance without tactful self-promotion and networking.

A McKinsey study showed that men are typically promoted on his potential, and women are promoted on her accomplishments.

Women at Kent State have seen the problems women face as well, and to combat it, some have formed the club All the CEO Ladies.

Madison Kalson, sophomore fashion design major and president of All the CEO Ladies, said the group gets together to discuss their business ventures and to help each other out.

Kalson said the focus of the club is to provide support to women who want to start a business because it is “important for anyone who wants to start a business to have encouragement.”

Women have barriers they have to cross to succeed in business, Kalson said, but many are mental blocks.

“I think in general, women just feel discouraged to start their own business or work their way up,” Kalson said. “There is pressure to have families, and if they start a business, they won’t be able to have the business.

“A big part (of the issue) is women second-guessing themselves, and (they) don’t lean in,” she added.

Many women see having a family and having a career as an either/or situation. Nzinga Hart, Kent State alumna and board member for All the CEO Ladies, proves them wrong.

Hart managed to run a business, work full time, serve on the board of two organizations and get her masters, all while pregnant. She now has a child and still manages to do all the same.

She said she believes one of the largest issues women face in the professional world is the lack of support groups. All the CEO Ladies is a way to fight this problem while in school and gives the women a place to network.

“A lot of the time, women think they have to go it alone, and they may feel alone,” Hart said. “But finding that strong network of other women that may help them feel less alone can make the difference.”

The belief that women cannot juggle a home life and a career is another harmful misconception, Hart said.

“A successful person will be a successful person, no matter the circumstances,” she said.

LuAnne Decker, managing director of human resources for FedEx Custom Critical, also said she believes a strong network of supporters is one of the best ways a woman can help her career.

Decker said she doesn’t believe she faces different challenges than her male coworkers, but that men and women have different approaches to getting ahead in their careers.

She said she has noticed that women tend to “wait to apply for an opportunity when they are qualified” and men may be a little more outspoken. Decker said it is important that women “make sure they are very vocal in what they want.”

Decker said shewants women to know that in the business world, many women are successful because of the relationships they form inside and outside the office.

“You have to ask for help, and a woman, especially in leadership, has to make sure they help other women get along,” she said.

Contact Ellie Enselein at [email protected].