5 Must Do’s for every Woman in the Workplace.
No amount of research can tell you exactly what it is going to be like for you in a new workplace. But if you do your due diligence before you start you are far less likely to find yourself in a delicate situation. When you start a job, whether as a trainee straight out of school, or an Executive in a very senior role, there are 5 Employee Must Do’s for women that are essential.
Read and Know your Employment Contract. Also, keep a copy of it and know where you have put it. If you take nothing else from this list, knowing your employment contract is the single biggest point I would like you to take away. If you read your contract and don’t understand any of it, question it with someone who can explain what it means. Your Employment contract outlines your entitlements and specifies what you can expect in a given set of circumstances. Read it and know it, if you don’t have yours, see HR and get a copy.
Know of your company parental provisions (even if babies aren’t in your immediate future). Some organisations have very generous provisions for parental leave. Others have excellent facilities and cultural policies that allow for highly flexible work arrangements that can be tailored for parents. It doesn’t matter if your partner is planning to be the primary parent….know your entitlements, it may come in handy. If there is no internal policy, ensure you understand your legislated entitlements. Your experience of having children while working can be dramatically altered by company provisions.
Read the Business financials. Listed companies will generally have to produce a list of financials; Not for Profit financials are available on Charity websites. Often you can find information about your prospective employer with a bit of research. I have heard many women say words to the effect of, “I’m not good at numbers”. Well I am saying get enough information to be able to read a basic set of financials – there is no excuse. A little of this type of research may prevent you from joining an organisation that is about to go bust.
Be a safe harbour for other women at work. You won’t like every woman that you work with, nor will you believe that every woman you work with does well in her role. Despite your feelings for your female co-workers, you can be a safe harbour for them. A safe harbour means supporting them in a work-related context if they have a good idea or do something well (women are less likely to be shown public support for the same idea that a male would be). A safe harbour means not gossiping about them, being reliable for them (doing what you say you will do) and challenging them if something they are doing is not a great idea. It is good colleagueship. It goes without saying that you should always tell a female colleague if she has her skirt tucked into her pants, spinach in her teeth or evidence of her period showing – these are non-negotiable.
Know your worth. It’s a fact, the hardest interview question of them all is a version of “what is your expected remuneration for this role?”. It Is tricky and you need to understand that it provides your interviewers with some information about both your research skills and how you see yourself. Do your homework on this one, there are a number of simple online resources that provide salary ranges. Before any interview ask if the role is covered by an award or Enterprise Agreement (and then google it). If it is not covered then I would google salary scales and the country I am living in, or salary range and the industry that you are looking at joining (I would do both). If you have industry contacts talk to them about what the industry remuneration looks like, particularly if you are looking to move from one industry to another. Understand any geographic contexts, generally roles in larger cities are remunerated at higher rates than equivalents in regions (of course there are some exceptions). I have conducted interviews where women have said things like:
- I really don’t know;
- I am currently paid xxx, so that is my expectation; or
- Enough to cover stuff at home.
None of these responses are sufficient to impress that you know your own worth or what you should be paid to do your role. Workplaces will not pay more than they need to for talent, so if you undersell yourself you will find yourself sold cheaply. I personally always suggest providing a range if asked, aligned to both the research you have done and your own experience.
I won’t pretend that just by sticking to these pointers that everything will be hunky dory at work, but you will be better informed and prepared for what is in front of you. Go for it!!