Finding an Affirming Work Environment

It probably comes as no surprise that it isn’t always easy to be a woman in the workplace. A fall 2017 Pew Research Center study found that four-in-ten women report experiencing gender discrimination in the workplace. How do we evaluate whether or not a company or organization will be supportive and affirming of us?

As we consider this question, we must first reflect on what it is that we individually value most in our work. What is most important to you: opportunity for advancement, location, compensation, flexibility, independence, stability? Having a clear vision of what your top priorities are enables you to strategically evaluate how satisfying an organization or role might be.

Consider these strategies to help you determine whether or not a workplace will be an affirming environment for you:

  • Visit the organization’s human resources site. Investigate relevant policies that a potential employer has put in place. How inclusive is the employer’s non-discrimination policy? What kind of parental leave benefits are offered? Are there affinity groups for women, people of color, LGBTQ, and others?
  • Research the leadership within the organization. How many of the top leadership roles are filled by women?
  • Talk to people within the organization. Go straight to the source. Ask others how supported they feel. Ask about how staff are promoted or how flexible supervisors are. Don’t know anyone? Check LinkedIn to see if there are any fellow alumnae who can help.
  • Review the reviews. Read and reflect on company reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Fairygodboss. Of course, always consider sources and think critically about the collective feedback that is posted.
  • Know your strengths. Having a clear understanding of how you work best, the natural talents that you bring to all you do, will help you better assess a potential work environment and role. For example, if you like to constantly innovate and improve processes, you might inquire about how staff respond to change within the organization or ask for an example of a recent process change that was implemented. Knowledge of your strengths can help give you additional confidence to self-advocate and choose roles or projects in which you can be more easily engaged and productive. Not sure what you’re strengths are? Try CliftonStrengths.
  • Ask questions. Whether you’re in the interview process, doing an informational interview, or at a social event speak up and ask questions that allow you to better understand organizational culture, supervisor, colleague, and peer relationships, and priorities of the company. Advocating for yourself and what is most important to you is a lifelong skill that is never too early to start.

If you find yourself in a workplace that feels less than supportive, seek out allies among your colleagues. Chances are, you are not the only one feeling that way. Reach out to mentors and advisors, within and outside your organization. Assess who within the company might be trained in diversity and inclusion, identify those who might be most responsive or supportive of your concerns.

Looking for a career community to share experiences and ask for advice? Join the OCP LinkedIn group: Meredith Office of Career Planning. Visit the OCP YouTube channel for webinars on navigating career transitions, job searching, LinkedIn, and more.

Melyssa Allen

News Director
316 Johnson Hall
(919) 760-8087
Fax: (919) 760-8330