Why the “Pink-it-and-Shrink-it” Approach to Career Progression Does Not Work

March 9, 2023
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As AI enthusiasts, we know that artificial intelligence learns from historical data. We asked AI to write a blog post about career progression for women in product management, but the advice wasn't tailored to the unique challenges women face. Women face more obstacles than men throughout their professional journeys, from peers and self-doubt.

Here’s what it had to say, and what we have to say about the one size fits all guidance...

1. Build a strong network

Networking is key to career progression, and women should actively seek out opportunities to connect with other professionals in their field.

What does this look like in practice for women?

Check your network for gender imbalance. If you identify as male, your network likely has 50% more men than non-male individuals, with women representing only 19% of CPO roles. Senior individuals typically rely on their networks for hiring and recommendations, leading to a cycle of exclusion when male-dominated networks are favoured.

What can be done?

= Stay in touch with your non-male-identifying colleagues just as you do with your male-identifying colleagues, giving you a more diverse network to recommend from.

= Balance the voices you hear by following more women for diverse opinions and insights.

2. Pursuing continued learning

Women in product should prioritise continued learning and seek out opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills as it demonstrates a commitment to personal and professional growth.

What does this look like in practice for women?

Non-male partners bear a greater share of the 'hidden mental load' of both cognitive labour (thinking about practical aspects of household responsibilities), and emotional labour (managing family emotions). This unequal distribution of non-work tasks results in most women having less time to devote to personal and career growth.

What can be done?

= Think about how many household tasks you handle, and how much you contribute to identifying, planning, and executing them. Typically, women take on more of the responsibility for identifying tasks and making a plan, while both partners work together to carry out the plan.

3. Advocating for yourself

Women in product should not be afraid to speak up and advocate for their accomplishments, skills, and aspirations. It is essential for women in product to take ownership of their career paths and proactively seek out opportunities for growth.

What does this look like in practice for women?

- Self-advocacy is not often encouraged in girls as they are taught to be modest and quiet, which can impact their self-confidence. However, these skills are essential for self-advocacy.
- Women may face 'out-of-role' perceptions when self-advocating, being viewed as self-promoting and aggrandising. This perception applies outside of negotiations as well. Self-promoting women are evaluated higher in performance but lower in likability than those who do not self-promote

What can be done?

= When reviewing your team's performance, focus on their actual achievements rather than their communication skills. Don't rely solely on their ability to showcase their accomplishments or justify their compensation..

= It's important to support and advocate for your colleagues, especially during performance reviews. A positive and confident mindset has been shown to improve outcomes. Additionally, we should avoid criticising our non-male colleagues for advocating for themselves, while neglecting to do the same for our male colleagues.

The Women Leading the Way for Product

Even though there is still a lot of work to be done to increase their representation, it's great to see that many women are leading the way in the product industry. Let's shine a light on these inspiring women and follow their journeys together!

Advocates for gender diversity

Elena Verna (Advisor - Amplitude) - LinkedIn

Elena speaks openly about what it’s really like being a working mom and handling all of the conflicting expectations put upon women throughout their career. She has some amazing content on LinkedIn, her own website (which has it’s own dedicated meme section!), and on her email newsletter, so be sure to follow, visit and subscribe for some inspiring, funny, relatable and most importantly, actionable resources

Georgie Smallwood (CPO - Tier) - LinkedIn

Georgie is not only an incredibly passionate supporter of Women in Tech, she primarily focuses her phenomenal skillset on female founders and co-founders, pushing equality of funding and diversity throughout the tech space. 

On top of these already amazing accolades, Georgie founded Auxilia Global - created for female founders, those interested in becoming founders and those who are keen to join early-stage teams, the platform is a safe and supportive forum to debate, discuss and connect with a goal to of increasing awareness and funding for female-founded tech businesses

Jessica Hall (CPO - Just-Eat Takeaway) - LinkedIn

Jessica recently blew our socks off with her compelling talk on “Unleashing the Power of Inclusion: Empowering Teams and Building Products for All**”**, her active involvement and advocacy for diversity and inclusion is evidenced by her teams success and backed up by many other team successes who have embraced a truly diverse team. Jessica is an incredible mentor with a particular interest in improving inclusion, so don’t miss out on a great opportunity

Namrata Sarmah (CPO - INTO University Partnerships) - LinkedIn

Nam is a passionate diversity and inclusion advocate, and runs 3, yes three, communities - Women in Product (London based), The BAME Leaders Network, and The Career Mums Club. 

Included in Management Today’s “35 women under 35”, alongside becoming a CPO at age 35, she is the millenial D&I advocate we can all be inspired by. Her Women in Product group have regular meet-ups around London, so it’s a great place to grow your network and learn from other female leaders

Tiama Hanson-Drury (CPO - Minna Technologies) - LinkedIn

Tiama has many accolades such as ‘2022 PLG leader’ and ‘Top 25 PLG Influencer 2021’, she is an advisor and pod host, and most importantly for this particular bio, an incredible advocate for gender diversity! 

She doesn’t shy away from topics, as demonstrated in how she tackles the push-back given to women-only groups by explaining that any movement that helps others without detrimentally impacting anyone else can only be a good thing

So for the critics- you do you. Our experiences shape our emotions and our emotions drive our behaviours. I'm very open to the fact that we're all coming from different places. I choose to focus on impact and doing what drives the type I want to have

Aurélie Genet (VP Product - Flo) - LinkedIn

Aurélie is an insanely talented leader and advisor, you barely need to scroll down her LinkedIn feed to see an amazing post about Daye’s new Vaginal Microbiome Screening product. 

In one post, Aurélie tackles the stigma around female health being openly discussed, shares a great new product we could all benefit from (I myself have been using my “busy work schedule” as a procrastination technique for getting my pap smear - vagina owners know the pain that is coming my way) and waves that tampon in stigma’s face. 

So be sure to follow Aurélie for inspiring, educational and empowering content.

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