THE GLASS CEILING
Reading an article about the Glass ceiling triggered my curiosity, and I began to think how this could affect my daughter and her goals and aspirations. According to the Department of Labor, females account for 43.99% of the workforce as of May 2001, but only a small fraction of women have succeeded in attaining senior level positions. This fact makes it difficult to discount the allegations of inequality between men and women in the workplace, and proves that the effects of the glass ceiling are still prevalent.
The glass ceiling has been defined as an invisible barrier analogous to subtle male discrimination, which was as hard to pin down as it was effective in limiting women.(Steiner 666) While overt discrimination has decreased due to the consequences of legal actions, subtle discrimination on the other hand is still common business practice in many organizations. Case studies have shown that subtle discrimination is based on establishing invisible barriers, which prevent high performing women from reaching their potential. The following factors contribute to the strength of the glass ceiling and prevent it from shattering. The first constraint has been described as gender based assumptions about careers and aspirations. (McCracken 160) The second hurdle limits the advancement opportunities for high performing and ambitious women. Finally, the absence of formal and informal leadership development and networking possibilities exacerbate the inequality.
Gender Based Assumptions. One of the most damaging perceptions is the belief that women are primarily focused on family and their secondary focus is on their career. It is generally an accepted fact that the majority of childcare responsibilities fall on women. This suggests that men are completely focused on work priorities, while women are not that dependable, because their loyalty is to their families. An example of this perception was given in the Harvard Business Review article, Winning the Talent War for Women. Managers of Deloitte & Touche were presented with the following scenario: Two team members, a man and a woman both single parents, arrived late to a meeting. Evaluating this situation the managers joked and forgot the mans tardiness, but assumed the woman was having childcare problems. A female manager even went further and suggested that the woman think seriously about her priorities.
More recently women have gained equal access into entry-level professional positions at many prestigious firms. Initially there is not a gap, because this places them at the same starting point with the male counter parts. However, subtle discrimination and unchecked assumptions about female attributes provide the high achieving men with more opportunities to excel throughout their careers, consequently widening the gender gap. While high performing men are often put on the fast track, high performing women are often prevented from achieving their highest potential. Many high profile assignments and projects will elude women, because of the common belief that women could leave at any time to have and raise children.
Lack of Opportunity for Advancement. A report issued by the American Psychological Association states a series of studies have shown that almost all people have trouble detecting a pattern of discrimination unless they are faced with a flagrant example or have access to aggregated data documenting discrimination. The glass ceiling is based on a very subtle form of discrimination, which is contrary to the flagrant warning signs necessary for detection by most people. However, aggregated data has been collected, which documents the disproportion between men and women in senior level management positions. The significant question to be answered is: Are there just not enough qualified women to fulfill senior management roles, or are other factors, more subtle obstacles preventing their access to the top of the career ladder?
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, in her article Pro & Con: The Myth of the Glass Ceiling claims that the small number of women in management positions is based on the fact that there are just more qualified men than women. She states that todays senior managers have the right qualifications, that is, a graduate degree and 25 years of continuos work experience. Not too many women graduated with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree 25 years ago, and therefore the qualified female pool is much smaller. Some of the women