It has been more than two years since the #MeToo movement came into our collective conversation. The ugly truth was revealed about the use of NDAs to keep victims silent, and the Time’s Up movement was inspired to fight back against sexual harassment.
Women in leadership, fair pay and equitable parental leave policies have now become widely recognized as corporate imperatives to attract female talent—if unevenly applied across companies and industries.
However, the conversation has now moved to “And what are companies doing to retain talent?” To create truly equitable workplaces, companies need to go beyond the numbers—salary, policy, representation, sexual harassment training—and move into human decency and fair treatment between employees. Unconscious bias, micro-aggressions, gaslighting, nepotism and radical transparency are topics leaders now need to get very familiar with, and take action on.
International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the many achievements and contributions women have made in building our society. It is also an opportunity to talk about how we can create a world that is more fair and inclusive.
In commemoration of International Women’s Day this year, Fishbowl surveyed its community of professionals about what working life is like for women across the major professional services industries (Finance, Advertising, Management Consulting, Law, and Accounting).
The current state of working life for women can be assessed by looking at five areas of the professional experience: company satisfaction, compensation, motherhood, protection from harassment, and employee feedback.
Each category had its own question with the options to agree or disagree:
Women’s Company Satisfaction
“I would recommend my company to a female friend”
Women & Compensation
“I’m happy with my current compensation based on my experience and qualifications”
Women & Motherhood
“I believe motherhood will negatively impact my career progression at my current company”
Women & Their Personalities
“I’ve received feedback at my current company that is based on my personality rather than my performance”
Women After #MeToo
“I trust my company to do the right thing in instances of reported harassment”
Overall, women in the professional services industries experience broadly positive workplace experiences based on their likelihood to recommend their company to a female friend.
1. Women’s Company Satisfaction
Women in Consulting and Accounting seem the happiest—with more than 3/4 of them recommending their companies to a friend. Advertising scores the lowest among all industries, close to Finance.
2. Top Female-Friendly Companies
The Big 4 companies are well represented in Accounting, but don’t crack the top three in Consulting. Interestingly, the Advertising agencies that women would most likely recommend to their female friends are large companies—which have been ramping up efforts on making transparency and employee wellbeing a priority.
Grey’s theme for International Women’s month is Unfiltered, encouraging women to bring their whole selves to work and how truth and vulnerability benefits work and professional relationships. R/GA has had a series of initiatives, the latest of them called Courageous Conversations, workshops heavily involving leadership to facilitate honest communication and employee wellbeing.
Deutsche Bank is one of the most beleaguered bulge bracket banks, but scores highly on the recommendation index. The Big Law firms that scored the highest on the recommendation index have a Partner/Associate ratio of 38% or higher (as of 2018).
While women in the professional services industries might be generally happy with their company and willing to recommend working there to a female friend, a more granular look at the components of working life can help companies improve the professional experience for their female employees.
3. Women & Motherhood
Motherhood has been one of the top conversations within our private women-only communities for the past year. It is an issue that factors heavily into the employee experience.
Not only do most women (almost 8 out 10 in Finance!) believe that motherhood will hold back their career progression at their current company, but women feel stuck with this systemic issue. Fear of not being hired, fear of retaliation, or fear for their career progression.
If companies are looking to not only attract but retain female talent, adjusting their parental leave policies among other corporate policies is a top priority. As well as holding themselves accountable on studying the promotion rate of women who have taken time off after having children.
4. Women & Their Personalities
Many women experience toxic company cultures in ways that might not be traditionally understood—especially by men—as “toxic”. Women speak about their exhaustion with unconscious bias, micro-aggressions and gaslighting, which are terms the corporate world is slowly learning to get familiar with.
One of the understated challenges women face is how often they receive feedback that is based on their personality rather than their performance.
It is an issue that is also widely spread among top performers. Being an A-Player at work is not enough. It is extremely common for women to be told that they’re too aggressive, too quiet, too nice or not approachable enough—feedback that is often based on the manager’s intuition rather than facts.
This is a shockingly prevalent problem in Advertising, where it is experienced by nearly 8 out of 10 women in the industry. Let’s not forget: at their current company.
5. Women & Compensation
Fair compensation has been a huge theme in the recent years, with organizations like the 3% Conference pushing Advertising agencies to pledge for pay equity. These are one of the areas where companies can continue to improve.
Female professionals in Law are happiest with their compensation, while women in Finance, who are among the least likely professionals to recommend their company to a female friend, are the most unhappy with their compensation based on their experience and qualifications.
6. Women After #MeToo
Finally, the most influential feminist movement of the past decade. What has happened three years after the #MeToo movement raised everyone’s consciousness in the workplace?
After the big lawsuits, today, trust in corporate leadership and company policies is essential to make women feel safe, protect victims and dismiss toxic coworkers.
Fishbowl surveyed female professionals across the professional services industries about whether they trust their companies to do the right thing in instances of reported harassment, and found that trust in leadership varies significantly.
Finance, a particularly male-dominated industry, scored highly relative to other industries, while Advertising, which has had some notable harassment stories in the last few years, is the industry with the least amount of trust among female professionals.
A Community Of Support
Thanks to the support of progressive professional organizations and the general feminist movement, things are getting better for women in the working world. However, to retain female talent, companies now need to go beyond the basics of equity—pay, harassment, representation, policy—and pay attention to more subtle yet equally impactful challenges women feel marginalized by.
While companies work to build more positive workplace cultures, working women can come together and support each other on Fishbowl in one of the following communities.
These communities are private groups exclusively for women where professionals can be truly honest about real-life challenges and experiences they have at work with their industry peers.