By Paige Rhodes
Chief Executive Officer
Rhodes & Weinstock
Ladies, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise — we’ve come a long way and at this point, there is nothing standing in your way. Forget the “glass ceiling” — the sky is the limit.
June Cleaver may still exist, and that role model is great for those who choose to follow it. But from my experience placing women in positions from CEO and chief financial officer to president of the board, I’m here to tell you that opportunities abound for smart, driven women.
- Data released last week by the Labor Department show that for the first time in history, women outnumber men in the workforce. As the job market stabilizes, older, experienced women appear to be on track to be the first hired back.
- New data shows women-owned businesses will create up to 5.5 million jobs by 2018, more than half the number of jobs expected to be created by all small businesses in that time. The research cites the customer focus of many businesses led by women as well as the sense of community and ability to help others succeed.
- About 10 percent of the people on the Forbes 400 richest people in America are women.
Rosie the Riveter paved the way
During World War II, Rosie the Riveter introduced females into the traditionally male workforce of the factories. In the ‘70s, well-known women fought for female rights. The proportion of women receiving four-year college degrees has been steadily increasing since the 1950s, overtaking the percentage of male graduates by the 1980s.
Among African Americans, women college graduates outnumber their male counterparts by almost two to one; among Hispanic Americans, the percentage is even greater. Women have also overtaken men in the percentage of master’s degrees awarded. In 1997, women received approximately 40 percent of all law and medical degrees earned.
And as more and more women are entering the skilled professional workforce, the Internet revolution has broken the “Old Boy’s Network” approach to doing business. The reasons are many, but one pivotal shift is that people can comparison shop for products and services quickly and easily. Your online identity is not tied so much to who you are as it is to what you can do — so you no longer have to belong to the country club to get the attention of a prospective client or employer. You can compete based on merits, and not just based on whom you know.
A whole new world for recruiting
Because of all this, the way companies recruit for new employees has also changed. Do a few minutes of research on the Internet, and you can get all the info you need about a company and the positions they’re hiring for, without ever making a phone call or setting up a face-to-face meeting.
If you happen to have the qualifications they’re looking for and you’re interested in applying for the position, most companies now accept online applications.
Some may argue that it has gone from a “women can’t do this job” environment to a “we need more women” environment. Stay-at-home dads are becoming more frequent, and magazines like Working Mother specifically focus on the demands put on females who choose to take on both roles of “mother” and “business person.”
Case in point
I recently had lunch with the director of human resources for one of the government’s largest departments. She shared with me that when she first applied for a job with the government over 25 years ago, she was one of only two females out of 140 applicants for the position. She is now in charge of a $42 billion budget, and oversees 230,000 employees.
What’s more, I’d estimate that nearly 99 percent of the human resources managers I work with daily are female. It’s true. They hire the staff for some of the largest law firms and companies in the country. And they have learned to think outside the box to attract and hire the most qualified employees.
Several years ago, I was approached by the head of a law firm to help her find a director of marketing. At the time, there were not a lot of strong marketing candidates with law firm experience. I felt that I had interviewed the perfect candidate for the position, who was also the mother of twin toddlers and a newborn. I knew in my gut (yes, a very female approach to solving a problem) that she was exactly what my client was looking for — but the candidate was hesitant about being away from home five days a week. We ended up negotiating a three-day work week for her, and the flexibility to work from home when necessary. It was a win-win for my client and the candidate.
Keep this in mind
Human Resources managers usually have input on the types of benefits their company offers employees. With women dominating this field, we’ve seen a big change in this area as well.
One of my favorite law firm clients actually has an onsite daycare and pre-school for children of employees. It’s a huge selling point to candidates who interview with the firm, and a huge morale booster for employees. Parents can actually visit their children on their lunch hour, and they get the benefit of being able to spend the morning and evening commute with their children. On Halloween, the kids actually “trick-or-treat” throughout the firm during the workday!
So whether you are a female already in the workforce and contemplating a career change, or a woman just entering the workforce (again, perhaps), my advice is this: Set your goals high, and don’t accept anything less. The opportunities are there; you just have to go out and get them.
Prior to co-founding Rhodes & Weinstock in 2009, Paige Rhodes spent more than 15 years in staffing, human resources and law-firm management.
Throughout her career, she gained an intricate knowledge of the temporary, temp-to-hire and direct placement services. In addition to her staffing industry experience, Paige also spent several years in human resources, and as an HR manager at two large law firms in the D.C. metropolitan area.
The combination of in-house and outplacement recruiting experience gives her a unique understanding of the hiring needs and concerns of her clients, from large multinational corporations to small start-ups.
Paige prides herself on developing long-term relationships with her candidates and clients. She believes superior customer service and honesty are the cornerstones of a successful business relationship. Paige is a member of the American Staffing Association and the National Association of Women Business Owners. She is a graduate of the University of Florida and a proud Gator!