The association world, much like nearly every other industry in America, is seeing a rise in female leaders. And why not? Education and opportunities are becoming more evenly matched, more so than just 30 years ago. Today we’re going to look into women and the association world: leadership, membership, and the future.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women still only earn 81 cents on the dollar compared to men’s pay. Granted, that is up significantly since the Equal Pay Act went into effect in the ‘60s, but it still can be a loss and the gap widens when you examine the pay specifically of African American and Hispanic women. However, that is a national average and not necessarily the norm in our industry. It is still something to consider, however, when any woman considers her career path in the future.
Many areas of business still see female leadership as a minority, and therefore different consideration is going to qualified applicants. This, of course, changes drastically with each organization and company, but a lot of companies strive for a balance of male and female leadership. This could create opportunity for women in traditionally male-dominated industries such as the IT field and many blue collar positions.
Women’s groups take up a big section of associations, and in fact, I even belong to a women’s professional association. Honestly, much of the focus of women’s associations is similar to those of other associations: networking, mentorship, career advancement, collaboration, etc. Since the pay gap is narrowing and equal opportunities for leadership are emerging, many women’s associations have less of a focus on major policy and lobbying issues and more of a focus on career advancements. That’s not to say there aren’t strides to be made! There are issues unique to women that will always be up for discussion, including but not limited to gaps in health care, maternity issues, and even still some discrimination in certain fields. In fact, a new Gallup poll reveals that 15% of women feel as if they've been overlooked for a promotion or raise due to their gender. Workplace treatment can also be an issue from time to time and could be another matter worth exploring for professional women.
With more female leaders taking over many professional areas, some new topics are coming up for discussion. For example, I’ve seen more about emotional maturity these days, and those talks and articles are geared towards woman. It may be a little sexist to believe that all women can’t handle crisis or change in a mature way, but there’s no denying that it’s a topic worth discussing with so many woman emerging leaders out there.
There's also the issue of work/life balance. Many women feel as if they need to have a focus on both the home and their business, and that their employer should respect and help with the ease of that balance. This, of course, is an issue for professional men as well.
Do you have a female boss? Are you a female association leader? How do you think the landscape is changing for professional women in the association world?