You’ve done it. You’ve swam your way through the Sportspark pool in your cap and gown. You’re officially a ‘proper’ adult, ready to face the world of graduate jobs. Yet of the swimmers who have spent approximately the last three years partying in the LCR and enduring late-night library sessions, a large group will go into the world of graduates facing obstacles they never expected, having stereotypes and gender roles imposed upon them, and battling against the arbitrary expectations imposed on them by society.
Being a graduate woman in the professional world is not a unique situation. However, young women going into the professional sphere are faced with a nuanced set of problems before them. Sexism and discrimination within the workplace is not as overt as it used to be. We’ve come a long way since the ‘slap on the arse’ culture that dominated many professional fields. Yet women are still faced with discrimination and, whether it’s blatant or indirect, it still very much exists. The societal pressures put on women to perform and act in certain ways impact the way in which graduate women go into the workforce. Women tend to only apply to jobs if they fit 100 percent of the criteria, whereas men will apply if they fit upwards of 60 percent. There seems to be an ingrained difference in the way in which women are spoken to and treated in the workplace.
Megan Baynes, a journalist and UEA graduate, spoke to me about ways in which she has been addressed or treated differently to her male counterparts in her professional life. Baynes explained the pressures she felt as a young, female journalist, for example, not wanting to look too ‘girly’ for fear of not being taken seriously. We discussed how confidence in yourself and your abilities as a young female graduate can be your greatest asset. It is necessary to power through the stereotypes imposed on you and find the confidence in your gender to break those barriers down.
There are obstacles faced by both men and women as graduates in today’s economy; adjusting to a new kind of time management, a different level of support and access to assistance, the many problems that being a ‘proper’ adult brings. However, it is impossible to ignore the female voice that echoes around the proverbial board room. There are more CEOs in the UK named James than there are female CEOs in the country. In 2012-13 there were approximately 100,000 more female undergraduates in the UK than male, it is concerning that the balance of power in the workforce does not reflect that. There is a deeper issue regarding the perception of women as professionals within the workforce, and the current cohort of graduates can be the first generation to change that.