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What Women Want in their Work and Careers

By Deborah Shane

In 1950, about one in three women participated in the labor force.

By 1998, nearly three of every five women of working age were in the labor force.

Fast forward to 2010 and the trend for women in the full time workforce was 51% and continuing to accelerate.

When you consider women are 60% of college students, control 66% of global spending (BCG), and are starting businesses 2 to 1 over any other group (FLWBC), women are not arriving, we are here and are a force to be reckoned with on many levels.


Driving Forces

Many things drive women when it comes to work and working, that are quite different than men.

In their 2009 Harvard Business Review article, The Female Economy, Michael J Silverstein and Kate Sayre shared the results of their research involving hundreds of interviews and studies with women in 50 organizations and 13 fields of endeavor. Here are a few things they found:

  • Women feel vastly underserved.
  • They feel undervalued in the marketplace.
  • They feel underestimated in the workplace.
  • They put their families first and have little time for themselves.

What Do Women Want?

Most companies have not done a great job at providing time-saving solutions or products and services designed especially for women and their multi-role, multi- tasking lives. Women searching for work are searching more and more for companies that provide and offer the things that they need, and many are simply starting their own businesses!

Women need more meaning when it comes to work and it has to "fit" their lifestyle responsibilities and needs. In order to have the family-career model women need options that many companies are now starting to offer. Companies are changing for women, so that they can take advantage of the talent pool women offer the workplace.

When it comes to work, women want to make a difference, help and be a part of something. They are communicators, connectors and very social beings. Therefore, when it comes to work, they are more often searching for a ‘career rather than a job.’ They would prefer finding a workplace situation where it fits their lifestyle needs, they can become a part of a team, make a difference and do what they do best.

Here are some of the things that drive women with regard to work:

  • Benefits and hours that fit their family demands
  • Flexible companies
  • Industries that they can relate to and that market to them
  • Products and services that help them and their families
  • Companies that are socially responsible
  • Women-owned or -led companies
  • Quality of life not status

Where the Opportunities May Be

A few comments to note from a December 30, 2009, article in The Economist, entitled Female Power.

"The feminization of the workforce has been driven by the relentless rise of the service sector (where women can compete as well as men) and the equally relentless decline of manufacturing (where they could not)."

"Demand has been matched by supply: women are increasingly willing and able to work outside the home. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that women make up more than two-thirds of employees in ten of the 15 job categories likely to grow fastest in the next few years. By 2011 there will be 2.6m more women than men studying in American universities."

Here are nine relevant "fields" that women can consider because of their fit with some of the areas important to women:

  1. Federal Government
  2. Education
  3. Global Business Development
  4. Behavior Therapist
  5. Researcher
  6. Electronic Medical Records Specialist
  7. Genetics Counselor
  8. Physical Therapist
  9. Veterinarian

And if you don’t see anything interesting in those 9, above, check this CNN/Money article, 39 jobs where women make more than men.

Bottom Line

Women have responsibilities and requirements that are quite different from men. Not wrong. Just different. Gradually, the economy is shifting in directions that may offer more benefit to women.

About the author...

Deborah Shane is founder at


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