I recently responded to a concern from a woman who worked for a government agency. She reported winning several awards a year, but not being promoted as she has special needs children: The employer felt [her] family responsibilities might interfere with [her] ability to handle increased responsibility. She felt burnt out at work and stressed at home.

The employer has control in an employer/employee relationship. As an employee you can't force your boss to give you a promotion, more benefits, a raise, etc. Sure, if an employer does something really egregious you might spend a lot of time and money in a legal battle. I doubt this would enhance your life!

Women struggle with work and family issues, especially. Not only do they have concerns, but employers do as well. Having been on the hiring end of business, I have often considered potential for pregnancy (and maternity leave), sick children (time off from work and productivity), work interruptions (spouses, schools, sick children). These possibilities may be unofficially factored in to a final decision for hire or promotion, trust me. That having been said, ours was a family (and dog) friendly office where there were frequently children or spouses who were known and addressed by name...

Follow these tips for women in the workplace, looking for work, or looking to change jobs is to:

  1. Realistically assess your abilities, goals, and family needs.
     This is sometimes difficult to do. Women, especially, are barraged with media and societal messages that push them to climb the corporate ladder and/or demand what they're due. I know many woman who have left the corporate zoo for better quality of life in a lower level position. Most readily tell me it was the best decision they made and they wish they had done it sooner. Many share that they worked hours more than they needed to in the hopes of climbing the proverbial ladder only to realize in hindsight that they never had a chance of climbing up one more rung...
  2. Find a position firmly within your abilities in a work culture that is comfortable.
      You can tell a lot during an interview, but it still behooves you to ask for a tour and/or to meet or even interview some of the employees. How was your reception upon arrival - formal? Warm? What are you comfortable with? If you do have special considerations at home try to gauge the employer's tolerance by asking questions that might clue you in to whether or not the culture or your supervisor's approach would be a good fit for you.
  3. Talk with your spouse and family about your desires at work and home.
     It helps to have a clear discussion BEFORE something happens or there is an issue. Think about it now. Will your current position be a match for you three years from now when you plan to start having children? If not, what will be? How much unhappiness should you expect to have at work and feel like it is worth what you are being paid? What are your options? All things to consider and talk about, now.
  4. Share concerns from work rather than try to handle it yourself.
      If something is causing stress at work, don't be tempted to internalize it and keep from worrying your spouse. This does not work. Even if you can pull it off in the long run, you won't be able to for long. You will find that it will strengthen your relationship and relieve your stress as well. In truth, it will likely relieve your stress at work as well.
  5. If possible share concerns from work with your supervisor.
    Your supervisor may not be approachable if your situation is tenuous. However, in most cases they are. Take the time to identify your concerns. Write them down. Say them out loud. How will you present them to your boss? Actually right out full sentences of what you will say and practice voicing your concerns out loud. It may feel silly, but it will help you control your emotions when you are actually in front of your supervisor.

    Remind yourself it is just business and work very hard to keep emotion from clouding your concerns.

  6. Don't wait to seek another position if your current position is not a good match.
     Consider ending your employment on YOUR terms at if your situation is untenable. Your family and your wellbeing should come first. Sometimes the type of treatment received from the company culture and sometimes it is from your supervisor or next line supervisor. You may be able to figure out the real agenda and who is responsible, but it won't change the bottom line: This job is not a good fit for you and your family. Once you accept the need for a change and plan to do so, you will find that the stress and pressure you are feeling will disappear almost immediately....Do it today!