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  • Felicia Lyon

The “Onlys” – An Overlooked Part of Women in the Workplace


Much has been made of the most recent 2018 Women in the Workplace Report, and that’s for good reason. McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org have once again put together a study that should be an eye-opener for the entire professional world. Those who want to read the study in full can find it here. We’d like to focus on one of the more overlooked aspects of the report, which dives deeply into different women in the workplace statistics. That aspect involves the “Onlys” out there, or women who are the “only” woman in the room in a professional setting. Whether this is a symptom or a cause, the bottom line is that more women moving mountains will mean fewer Onlys in the future.


According to the study:

20 percent of women describe themselves as an Only. Onlys are more likely to deal with microagressions in the workplace setting. Onlys are almost twice as likely to have been sexually harassed during their careers. Onlys are 1.5 times more likely to think about leaving their jobs than non-only women. Approximately 40 percent of senior-level women and women in technical roles are Onlys. Seven percent of men regard themselves as Onlys.

These are troubling numbers, and speak to the reality that while women in the workplace statistics have improved in recent years, there is still a long way to go before something like being an Only is no longer a real issue in professional settings.


A Heavy Burden to Carry

Onlys have to deal with quite a bit on top of feeling as though they are constantly being singled out for one reason or another. Many women who were interviewed regarding this situation stated that they feel as though they are representing an entire gender every time they speak or perform any work-related function. Over time, this added pressure leads to lower levels of workplace fulfillment, feelings of seclusion and, ultimately, burnout. This additional, gender-based burden is having a tangible effect on how long women stay at their jobs.


Ideas To Consider

If you find yourself as an Only, you may feel that there is not much that you can do to improve your situation. However, Women Moving Mountains has worked with Onlys, and there are solutions to this problem. Perhaps the most widely-suggested and effective approach is to reach out to other women in the organization, even if an Only doesn’t work with those women regularly. Another option is to seek a peer group outside the business - similar to the Women Moving Mountains Society. Peer groups can bring people together, and sharing these feelings and these struggles will help those going through them obtain a different perspective on their careers and their daily professional lives.


Of course, the best way to eliminate this problem of Onlys is for women in the workplace statistics to improve across the board. The more women present in different organizations, the less likely it becomes that any professional woman will wind up feeling like an Only. While that’s going to take some time and a lot of concerted effort, every professional woman can make a difference. There is no hard-and-fast equation for it, as every workplace situation is different.


How We Can Help

Women Moving Mountains is an organization that works with women individually to help them map their own careers and pathways to success. If you are an Only and you’re not sure how to handle it, you need to seek the help of Women Moving Mountains. We understand this challenge and will work with you to overcome it. All you need to do is contact us today to learn more about the possibilities in front of you.