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“Make your employers understand that you are in their service as workers, not as women.” Susan B. Anthony in an article excerpted from October 8, 1868 edition of The Revolution, a women suffrage newspaper.

Note to working women: if you want to break out of the “Pink Ghetto” tear a page out of your male co-workers playbooks, start a Good Old Girls group and get serious about networking.
The Pink Ghetto is a largely invisible, often unspoken and unacknowledged place that impedes womens’ upward mobility in the workplace, ranging from achieving equal pay for equal work; to being offered the same opportunities as male co-workers to getting promoted as quickly as men or getting promoted at all.
There are no magic formulas or quick fixes to address ingrained inequities. Networking and mentoring initiatives offer immediate, tactical as well as long term strategic solutions to assist women in breaking down gender-based barriers. There are compelling reasons why women in high technology and in all professions, should make networking an integral part of their daily routines, formalize their efforts and set specific goals.
The ongoing recession of the last two years has made the Pink Ghetto more palpable than ever. The competition for job retention, promotions and to secure new positions is intense. The ongoing economic crisis has spared no one. And with the unemployment rate hitting 10.2% in October – the highest levels in 30 years – everyone is feeling the pressure. Consider these statistics:
• Women now constitute roughly 50% of the workforce, but on average, they make just over three-fourths of the salary of their male counterparts.
• The most recent Bureau of Labor statistics show that salary disparity between men’s’ and women’s wages widened slightly from during 2008. On average, women now earn $.77 for every $1 a man earns, down from $.78 in 2007, for an annual median salary of just over $36,000.
• The National Research Council reported that women leave high technology, computer, science and engineering careers twice as frequently as men and women’s salaries in those professions still lag behind those of males by 12% to 15%.
• The number of women CEOs also declined slightly in the past two years. Currently, women hold the top spots at only one dozen Fortune 500 companies; while 24 Fortune 1000 companies are run by women, according to Fortune Magazine.
According to the latest statistics released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on November 6, men bore the brunt of the layoffs representing 72% of the 7.3 million jobs lost since the recession began in December 2007. The disproportionately higher job losses incurred by men are attributable to the fact that over 50% of the jobs lost have been in male dominated fields such as automotive, construction and manufacturing.
With so many men losing their jobs, many women now find themselves the family breadwinner, so the pressure is on to make up the salary shortfall and move up the corporate ladder.
The average disparity of 23 cents between a man and a woman’s wages may sound negligible, but over the course of a working lifetime those pennies add up. The wage gap costs the average American full-time woman worker between $700,000 and $2 million over the course of her lifetime, according to economist Evelyn Murphy, president of the Women Are Getting Even (WAGE) Project, a non-profit, grass roots organization formed in 2006 to close the salary gap.
In the high technology, engineering and scientific sectors, the macro-economic levels of male vs. female do not obviously “ show up,” noted Caroline Simard, vice president of research and executive programs for the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology in Palo Alto, California. Simard’s research indicates women are more vulnerable specifically because they are less networked and therefore more susceptible to losing a job and are faced with more challenges when seeking new employment opportunities.
“It’s hugely important for women to network; it’s not enough to just work hard. Networking is one of the most powerful predictor’s of advancement and salaries,” Simard said.
Anecdotally, men are very supportive of other men and have typically lobbied on each other’s behalf for swifter promotions, bigger raises and better performance reviews. One woman who spent over 20 years performing admirably at her consulting firm in the Northeast, including traveling the globe and being a top revenue generator, was consistently passed over for a promotion to vice president. Her male counterparts who had a fraction of her experience, came in a lower grade and salary level but quickly passed her in the ranks, achieving the coveted VP title in two or three years. Another woman in this same organization was assigned to report to a younger, less experienced male colleague who was pegged as an up-and-comer and put on the fast track for promotion. When it came time for performance reviews and merit raises, the more experienced woman got a miniscule salary increase and was bypassed for a promotion because her younger boss deemed that her writing lacked the necessary analytic abilities. Ironically, the woman in question had garnered numerous writing awards and was in great demand among the consulting firm’s clients!
While women in high technology will often chat and engage in social activities during the regular office day, they have not heretofore made a concerted effort at networking.
The traditional tried and proven male methods of networking like golf outings or bonding over drinks after work at a local watering hole do not come easily or naturally to women. More often than not, a woman engineer, IT manager, software developer or C-level executive will be a very small minority or perhaps the only female in her immediate group. This can be an isolating and daunting experience. While not specifically excluded from accompanying her male peers to sporting events as a participant or spectator or going with them for drinks after work, many women feel uncomfortable. And many women, who are also wives and mothers, simply don’t have the luxury of going to bars after hours for networking over peanuts and beers.
“Women must network laterally and upwardly – including with supportive men. Women need the connections up to help open the doors to upward mobility,” Simard said, observing that “if you’re the only woman in your group it will be harder to network.”
Women are well advised to get on internal corporate as well as industry committees and task forces and to join their specific industry associations in order to gain external recognition, which they can then use as leverage within their organizations. in order to bring it back to you internally.
“Working harder does not make you more visible it can make you invisible,” Simard observed. “Women need to view networking as being a part of their daily work,” she added.
The Anita Borg Institute runs negotiation programs to teach women specific networking and negotiation tactics. Women who don’t negotiate for better pay and benefits at the outset of their careers are negatively impacted over the long term and will almost certainly get paid less over the course of their careers, Simard said.
Theory and practice are frequently at loggerheads. The growing bodies of research on gender-based workplace disparities are clear that women must become more assertive in order to be heard, especially in male dominated fields. The conundrum facing women is that if they’re too assertive they will be viewed negatively and classified as intimidating or worse.
“Women must learn to navigate that high wire act,” Simard said, noting that even women will view an assertive woman negatively. To correctly assess the tone of your organization, women should seek out a mentor who will help them read and clarify various work related issues and advise them on the best courses of actions for dealing with specific situations and different personality types.
Another way to burst out of the Pink Ghetto is to address the innate gender bias that exists in many organizations’ hiring, recruiting and retention practices. The Anita Borg Institute’s initiatives center on helping companies to realize that they need and want diversity in their corporate culture and communications styles. “The upcoming generation is the most diverse this country has ever seen. Good managers are those that can adequately deal with diversity,” Simard said.
Women in high technology who want to wend their way through the organization and reach the upper echelons in salary and job titles should avail themselves of the growing number of women’s conferences. Online social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are also great sources for networking, reconnecting with former colleagues and supervisors and meeting potential mentors. Don’t hesitate to ask Facebook and LinkedIn connections to write references and recommendations for you. And above all, cultivate these relationships, seek out mentors and be a mentor.

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