A handbag or professional development?

Women are judicious consumers and make or influence over 80% of household consumer decisions. Yet, as those involved in the training and coaching sector will testify, when it comes to personal development and creating a career strategy, price becomes a significant barrier for women. For many there is a heavy reliance on “unconscious competence” as a career development tool, rather than strategic long term planning and personal investment.

CEO of a Brand called You

In an era when we are all urged to become our own Chief Marketing Officers or the CEO of a Brand Called You failing to assume responsibility for our own careers with  reliance on companies to provide and finance training opportunities is short sighted.

In Belgium research from the Institut européen pour l’égalité entre les Hommes et les Femmes, indicates that Belgian companies spend 50% less per year  (€536) on training female employees than they do on training their male employees ( €1118). In many companies training budgets have been slashed for both men and women alike.  So coupled with a general tendency for women not to raise their hands and put themselves forward  to ask for anything at all,  they are hit by a double penalty. An increasing number of women are telling me, slightly perturbed and affronted that their managers are starting to quiz them about their career development plans. They have no answer. Their expectation is for management to have proposals at the ready. But the days of paternalistic HR functions and corporate structures which take care of employee management development needs are clearly on the wane.

Making choices

UK studies show that British women will spend on average £4000 in a lifetime on handbags seeing the right accessory as “an investment in image and self esteem” according to a survey carried out by insurance company GoCompare.  Women also spend £244.93 ($370 or €310)  annually on shoes. Superdrug research reveals that we women spend $180 (€140 or £111) on cosmetics every year.

Why it shouldn’t be either/or

Yet owning cosmetics or a favourite handbag or shoes, shouldn’t be mutually exclusive with personal development decisions.  It needn’t be either/or. In fact it shouldn’t be. The irony is that if women invested more in strategic professional development we could probably afford to increase our budget on those sort-after personal items, as we reduce the wage gap between ourselves and our male colleagues (on average about 20% less than men, and in some countries salaries are even lower.) An additional bonus would be that our self-esteem and confidence would be rooted in owning our durable personal professional success stories, rather than quick-fix fashion accessories, which will be “so last season” within 6 months.

What do you think? How much do you invest in strategic personal and professional development?

Dorothy Dalton is a global talent management strategist working on both sides of the executive search and research spectrum from ” hire to retire.” Dorothy is Co-founder of 3Plus International, an organisation set up to support, promote and sponsor women to achieve their career goals into more senior professional roles, via the creation of gender-balanced shortlists.

A handbag or professional development?Why it shouldn’t be either/or? was first published in 3Plus eGazine  in October 2012

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