Lack of mentorships and isolation pose challenges

Equality for women in the workforce is far from resolved as the issue is too often swept under the rug

Being aware of the issues and challenges that women face in the workplace are signs of a progressive business community. All too often, this issue gets swept under the rug with the notion that it doesn’t apply to “my business” or “my community,” or because you “know” a female CEO.

Equality for women in the workplace is far from resolved; if we do little, we won’t see equality in my lifetime (speaking as a millennial). It could very well be until 2085 until the pay inequality gap closes and the number of females in C-level executive and CEO positions meet the same numbers as our male counterparts. The 2085 target is only extended if we don’t continue talking about and pushing for gender equality in the workplace.

Let’s talk research and numbers: 44 days. Right now, based on a Pew Research study, women need to work 44 extra days per year to earn the same amount as men, for the same job. Also, mothers in the workplace attempting to “have it all” see greater career interruptions than men, including reduced hours, time off, inability to work longer hours and being passed over for promotion. Large organizations tend to have women dominating the lower paid or entry-level positions, but there is a lack of women in leadership or managerial roles. The only recent “ground” made up in the pay equality game has been within the younger demographic of entry-level workers. At entry level, it is reported that women make 90 cents for every dollar of people hired between of the ages of 25 to 34.

A 2017 study by Pew Research looked at eight different types of discrimination women face within the workplace and tied that group’s results to three levels of education: Some college, college grad and post grad. The study showed an interesting result – our most highly educated women in the workplace have faced these eight discrimination areas at their highest rates:

  • 35 percent – Earned less for the same job than their male counterparts.
  • 30 percent – Treated as less competent than male counterpart.
  • 29 percent – Experienced slights due to gender (comments about emotion, career dedication, caring for younger or older family members).
  • 27 percent – Less support from senior leadership than a male doing the same job.
  • 18 percent – Passed over for important assignments.
  • 18 percent – Felt isolated.
  • 11 percent – Being denied a promotion.
  • 12 percent – Being turned down for a job.

Of these eight categories, the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce’s newly developed Women in Leadership Lecture (WILL) series presented by MacKay Sposito, addresses two of these eight categories directly: Less support from senior management than male counterparts in the same role, and feelings of isolation.

This GVCC’s WILL series was created to develop and enhance our current female leaders in Southwest Washington. We’ve answered the question, “Where does a highly educated, manager-level female go for support, career development, mentorship and managerial/leadership philosophy?” The Chamber’s new WILL series meets four times per year and features two speakers per event, led by our event host Lee Rafferty, the Vancouver Downtown Association’s former executive director and the inaugural recipient of the John S. McKibbin Leadership Award.

Rafferty is joined by event emcee Lisa Schauer of PointNorth, known throughout the community for her proactive leadership, supporting women running for elected office and in the STEM fields. At each WILL event, we create connections within the group to build and develop mentoring that goes in both directions. For example, at the February event we connected Rekah Strong, the new executive director of Educational Opportunities for Children and Families, which is Clark County’s largest early learning organization with Shirley Gross, senior associate director of Development/Planned Giving at the Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital Foundation.

Our February speakers were Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Vancouver’s first female mayor, and Stacey Graham, the president of the Humane Society for Southwest Washington. In April, the Chamber’s WILL event will welcome the Port of Vancouver USA’s first female CEO Julianna Marler.

In 2018, in every state and in every city, gender inequality exists in the workplace. There are many extraordinary groups of women and men working to address this problem and we encourage you to explore and utilize the following resources: Women’s Leadership Center at the YWCA Clark County; Leadership Clark County; Clark College – Economic and Community Development; and WSU Vancouver.

What can you do today?

Promote the female leaders you know through The Iris Awards, WSU Vancouver’s Women of Distinction and the Chamber’s Business & Leadership Awards. Work towards solutions by inclusion of girls from young ages via networks like Empower Women + Girls, Lunch Buddy Mentoring programs and the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Washington. You can also donate to the Clark College Foundation’s scholarship funds and support those scholarships that aid women seeking business and STEM degrees.

The Chamber’s persistence and tenacity for equality of women in business is embodied by our Women in Leadership Lectures Series program motto, “When there is a WILL, there is a WAY.” More information can be found at

Chandra Chase is the Programs and Communications Director at the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.

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