If you feel stuck in your corporate gig, you’re not alone—women are leaving the corporate world of work in droves. Whether it’s the “boys club” C-suites, the gender pay gap, extreme job demands, or total disregard for the realities of motherhood, women are looking for more and aren’t always sure where to start.
The perception is that women want more respect, more pay, more opportunity, and more growth in the workplace. But, this perception is misguided and overlooks the core concern. In actuality, what we crave is equality. The ugly truth is that gender bias is still alive and well, haunting the workplace and holding women back from what we deserve.
Like many young women early in their careers, you might be asking yourself these questions:
- Are you at a place in your career where you are seriously considering moving on because that feels like the only way to advance?
- Do you ever question if you are being paid what you are worth when recruiters float possible opportunities by you?
- Is there a nagging feeling that you are missing out as you watch peers and friends leap-frog employers and dabble with freelancing?
The real challenges that women face are amplified against the backdrop of media messages that glamorize entrepreneurial ventures and the freelancer movement – when women don’t find opportunities in their corporate paths, they jump ship to pursue “doing their own thing.” Therefore, there is a growing sentiment that the more exciting way to advance is “elsewhere,” which makes our #FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) even worse.
And so, I’m issuing this provocative call to action.
As talented and valuable as you are, you could secure a better title, more responsibility, and more money at another company if you leave today. You could even hit it big in the startup world or as an entrepreneur. However, I want you to really consider what you may be leaving behind. All it takes is a shift in thinking about how to maximize and leverage the tools you already have in your arsenal.
With your relationship currency, enterprise knowledge, and track record of results, you can also cultivate the career you desire right where you are by staying and building the company you deserve. You could be a positive catalyst for change within your company to ensure that it evolves to be a workplace that welcomes everyone and where women can truly thrive. It will require you to think big for yourself, for your team, for your business, and for the day-to-day experiences of your colleagues. The decision to “dig your heels in” is centered on a commitment to holding your ground, focusing on the long game, and transforming the place that pays your paycheck today.
Digging your heels in is a personal decision and in no way, shape, or form encourages someone to stay in a toxic environment that is beyond his or her control. I’m in no way advocating for you to endure a workplace that is harmful, but ask yourself this: are you buying into the glamour, or is your relationship capital telling you to hunker down for change?
If it’s the latter, I’ve developed a short exercise for you to reflect on where you’ve been and where you want to go. My goal is to help guide your decision so you can make it with confidence, conviction, and no regrets. So if you’re feeling concerned or confused as to whether you’re more in control in your current company or dreaming of greater autonomy elsewhere, here are some questions that could help you get closer to sorting through realities and pipe dreams.
5 Things to Consider About Your Workplace Before Jumping Ship
This exercise challenges you to think of both positive and negative aspects of your workplace, including relationships, growth experiences, engagement, and opportunities for advancement. Consider these questions carefully, and be honest with yourself.
Management & Mentorship
- How many managers have you reported to throughout your tenure?
- Were these managers consistent about checking in with you?
- How did the inconsistent or consistent relationship with your managers impact on your acceleration and engagement?
Engagement & Development
- How consistent were your performance reviews, and how has your progress been tracked internally?
- How have you advanced in title and responsibilities?
- Do you have an ally in HR or someone who is familiar with talent management at your company who is aware of your career performance, skills, and goals?
Growth & Retention
- Does the pattern of this advancement line up with your impression of how your career trajectory would unfold when you first joined the organization?
- How is your advancement similar to or different from that of women and men around you with similar credentials and experience?
Equity & Benefits
- How have you advanced in pay, company equity, and access to additional benefits?
- When and how often are increases awarded, and were you aware in advance of the timing and details?
- Did you have any input into these decisions?
Your Allies & Personal Energy
- Have you engaged all of your allies, the people you trust and those who share your values, in your vision of what the company could be and could do to better serve and support women?
- Can you rally the energy to push further and demand more in any of the following categories: growth and development, business impact, career advancement, industry involvement?
Deciding whether to dig in or jump ship is only the beginning. Once you’ve decided to recommit to building the workplace you deserve and using the capital you’ve earned there, you can then find partners who can serve as allies, establish nonnegotiables that communicate what’s important to you, and strategically implement your path forward that you are empowered by and proud of.
Joan Kuhl, the founder and CEO of Why Millennials Matter and Kuhl Consulting, champions girls and women in leadership. Her work has been featured in Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the New York Times, and more. She serves on the board of Girls Inc. of New York City and is a U.S. Soccer #SheBelieves Champion. She is the author of Dig Your Heels In: Navigate Corporate BS and Build the Company You Deserve.