Glass Ceiling Does It Still Exist?
There are many questions that come to mind when looking at the structure of any organizations. Within the social organization, employees face many challenges such as sexual harassment, violence, rape, depression, and discrimination. These issues in their respective organizations are a hindrance to their success and can cause their personal and career development to suffer. But the key factor that will be focused regarding discrimination is women's struggles advancing in their careers often called the glass ceiling effect. In this research, the term "glass ceiling " will be defined, answer the question "Who is affected by such barrier and why", what acts helped pave the way, and determine any recommendations to solve the problem.
Glass ceiling is defined as the invisible barrier that keeps women from advancing to high level positions. In the Microsoft Encarta World Encyclopedia, the term glass ceiling is a "barrier to career advancement: an unofficial but real impediment to somebody's advancement into upper-level management positions because of dissemination based on the person's gender, age, race, ethnicity, or sexual preference." In other words, "Glass ceiling" is a negative barrier of attitudes and prejudices preventing women and minorities to move up in their corporate ladder. It holds many to stay at their lower level positions and not given a chance to show their abilities and improve themselves. Another definition given to this invisible barrier is it "describes cases in which women begin their careers on an equal footing with men, and either lose ground gradually over time, or continue to progress on par with their male counterpart until, at some point, their progress is blocked." (Morgan, 1998)
In today's ever-changing working environment, many ask who is on top of management? Surely, people want to know whether men or women are on top of these hierarchies. They also want to know which ethnic groups hold these positions. Looking at the workforce, women and minorities are struggling to advance in their careers. They are the ones who are mostly affected by the glass ceiling. This gives Caucasian men the upper hand in their battles to reach top management positions. In our organizations, men’s experiences are assumed to be the norm, while women’s experiences are looked down upon. Women’s experiences are considered beneath those of men, narrowly categorized, or often times excluded altogether. We see more women positions in the Administrative or Clerical fields and not so often in the Technical fields.
When compared to men, women are often left behind when it comes to advancement even if they have the same educational background and work experiences. But the work place is now changing. "Women are shooting to the top of high-tech companies, dot.com startups and Internet favorites, with a speed that promises to permanently change the way we think about women, work and power" (Gerber, 2000). Despite women’s advances in the workforce, they still strive to emerge and grow out of male oppression and move to a higher social position where they belong.
This institutionalized gender discrimination affects both the private and the public sectors where women are often the victims of this type of crime. Through observation it is concluded that we live in a patriarchal culture, which enables capitalists to benefit from the exploitation of women in the labor force. This patriarchal system also mandates that men serve as financial providers; therefore, women are not expected to assume the role as breadwinners. "The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show that the average for all working women is currently 77 cents to the dollar" (Nelson, 2000). This cultural system, then, allows employers justification for hiring women at lower wages and under poorer working conditions. Such conditions include limited flexible working hours, support system, and benefits.
Another article "Why Teachers Leave" deals with teachers stating the reasons why they are leaving their profession (Hardy, 1999). Although the main reason for them leaving is low pay and low status, the issues is that higher education is not meeting the demands of the teachers. This is an example of the restriction put by management. Even though both genders were demanding their pay be increased, the quality of their status and working environment be improved, there is a high turnover in this occupation. "Additional causes include a combination of factors that relate to job satisfaction, including salary and benefits, dissatisfaction with teaching as a career, and school staffing actions." (Hardy, 1999) Turnover is unavoidable but one thing administrators can do to prevent this is to pay attention to the needs of their employees.
Historically, there have been clear divisions of labor between men and women. Men were seen as the producer of the family household. As the producer of the household, the main objective is to economically sustain family life. On the other hand, women were seen as the reproducers of family life. Work outside the home is an extension of their domestic responsibilities. This led to the assumption that there is no separation between paid work and housework. A woman, who is both a homemaker and a career woman, has a tougher job when compared to one who is a housewife or a career woman alone.
In increasing numbers, the insidious effects of the glass-ceiling has touched some of society’s most vulnerable members such as women, the elderly, our developmentally disabled, and the immigrant populations. The majority of victims are female and their most frequent abusers are their employers and male co-workers. The glass ceiling effect is a behavior consistent with prejudicial attitudes towards a certain group (Unknown Author, 2000). In this case, women are the targets of this discrimination. This has been a long battle fought by women of all ethnic backgrounds. The common thread among these targets is that, in addition to the inherent societal vulnerability of women to the glass ceiling effect, their risk is provoked by a set of circumstances that increases their isolation from societal interaction and reduces their ability to defend themselves and access outside intervention. "Gender is a key determinant of crucial factors shaping a woman’s career development." (Cook, 1997) Since women are seen as victims they are not able to get help for themselves such as having mentors that would act as guides in their careers. The female gender is the fastest growing group because they generally live longer when compared to men. The glass ceiling effect is something that we recognize as a problem in the workplace.
Women are seen in a variety of ways, positive as well as negative. They were seen as strong, dedicated, and organized. Yet, as they began to struggle to find their place at work, they are seen negatively. An article about Professional Women and Working describes women as "Ruthless," "hard-nosed," "calculating," "workaholic" are a few of the stereotypes that follow women managers to the executive suite" (Becker, 2000). In the years before Civil Rights, women were expected to behave as the stereotypical housewife. They were described as devoted, obedient, and dependent. But as the years have gone by, women have become more independent, aggressive, educated, and determined. This was seen as a threat to men. Women becoming independent meant more competition in the workplace. In order to reduce competition and maintain superiority, women were stereotyped as being less competent. They were only allowed to succeed in organizations in which they worked, unless they were secretaries.
The working environment dominated by men did not believe that women were capable of managing a career outside the home. With their new found interest in their careers women wanted to pursue more than a family. They wanted to work and contribute to the household and not depend so much on men. Activists of the Civil Rights movements paved the way for women to have the opportunity to work outside the home. According to Cook, "Despite signs that women are achieving more equity in the workplace, discrimination continues in many forms and at multiple levels." (Cook, 1997) Women are having a difficult time managing their corporate job and their families because of the demanding challenges faced upon them. As a result, women postpone getting married and having children due to lack of personal time that they can devote even for their hobbies.
As women and minorities joined the workforce, they faced many struggles along the way. "Women are thought to face particular disadvantages in managerial and professional settings." (Morgan, 1998) The glass ceiling effect comes in all types and forms. Often, employer’s hiring methods are based on discriminative criteria, giving more preference to male applicants than female and more preference to Caucasians than minorities. The under-representation of women and minorities at the most rarefied heights of an organization is a result of conscious decisions and overt anti-women prejudice on the part of company CEOs, presidents, managers, supervisors, and boards of directors.
For example, "Even our newest business leaders--Lloyd Ward, Barry Rand, John Thompson, Franklin Raines, Kenneth Chenault, and those CEOs of smaller majority corporations--have endured their share of overt discrimination, subtle quips about perceived qualifications and capabilities and initial exclusion from certain business circles, all based solely on skin color" (Clarke, 2000). With the help of the Pendleton Act and the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, there are now better ways to ensure hiring competent employees regardless of demographics such as gender, age, and race within the public and private sectors. Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity Act, and Equal Pay Act have improved the quality of the workforce and now women and minorities have better access and opportunity to move up in their organization. But even with these acts, women and minorities are still prevented from moving up the ladder.
The Pendleton Act called for Human Resources Departments to require open and competitive examination in the public sector allowing opportunities for competent employees. It also provided employees lateral entry within the organization instead of just applying for an entry-level position. For example, instead of applying for the position of Intermediate Typist Clerk, an individual can apply as a Family Support Officer if the person possess the minimum requirements. If they are denied for application, applicants can file grievances in their Human Resources Departments. With the Pendleton Act in progress, the Civil Service Reform Act was developed in order to restore the merit principle. The merit principle gave structure in various organizations paving the way to improving the hiring system, and making it flexible to be better equipped with what is needed in the agency to reduce the glass ceiling effect. The idea of Affirmative Action sought equality under the law looking at someone’s race, sex, and color, giving those not privileged an opportunity to get promoted, a good career, good pay and benefits, and allow a more diverse working environment.
When it comes to the glass ceiling that affects women and minorities, there are many questions that come to mind in order to have a better understanding to what types of recommendations are necessary. Who are the women and minorities involved? Why do they stay at their present job? Do they leave? Why do they get treated the way they are treated? And how, if at all, are women and minorities different from the other employees in that organization? It is important for employers to address these problems because they do not recognize them as a problem within the structures of many organizations in regards to hiring and promoting.
It is recommended that most organizations become flexible yet structured. They should also offer better opportunities for women and minorities to succeed and advance in their chosen fields. To better improve the workplace, the Human Resources Department calls for employers to provide varying training sessions on worker and organizational behavior, diversity training, computer classes, and more for their employees so that they can improve themselves helping them become more competitive. Employers feel that it is essential for employees to understand their attitudes and behaviors regarding their work and their co-workers. Due to the inhospitable nature of some organizational cultures, women have to consistently exceed their performance expectations, develop a style where their male counterparts are comfortable, seek difficult assignments, and have an influential mentor. Mentoring would be an essential tool to help employees be empowered. These are some of the ways a woman can successfully crack the glass ceiling which she is under.
Although organizations are implementing programs designed to counter the glass ceiling effect, problems may arise. There may be those who have their mind set on not changing their ways. Therefore, the glass ceiling is still present. Even if the glass ceiling effect did not exist, there are other reasons why women might be under-represented. Such reasons are: women working fewer hours than men, having less job experience, and working fewer years, and avoiding work in risky or unpleasant jobs. For example, women work fewer hours compared to men so that they can go home early and take care of the household chores such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children. But of course, there are also others who does not fall into this category and work a lot of hours so that they can prove themselves as competent and determined.
Marriage and children tend to slow women’s full attention to their careers unlike men. These problems do not pertain to all women because there are many women who have the capability to balance marriage, children, their career and success. So the proper avenue for women and minorities to this type of discrimination, is to seek change, education, exude confidence and determination, argument by being heard, by working harder and productively, utilizing all resources, and having respect for one’s self. Women are now becoming more involved in organizations and because of their education and experiences they are now competitive towards men in many ways.
In conclusion, now that the glass ceiling has been defined where women and minorities are affected in their working environment, and commendations have been set to help women and minorities as well the employers to seek change. It is time to take a stand against all gender-based discrimination based simply because some people are different and do not fit into the current social norms of gender roles. Women should learn to be flexible and balance their time for family and career in order to succeed in life. Women and minorities should become more educated and have the courage to fight for their rights and get what they deserve. They should also do their research when searching for a job the organizations practices. It is time the Human Resources Departments defines exactly what the problem is and finds solutions to this problem. Whether it be through varying training programs, mentoring, and networking. Rather than focusing on the negative women and minorities should work around these barriers if they want to get ahead. Even with equal rights, women are still being discriminated against, especially in the workplace. You can now see various women in various steps of the ladder reaching out to their full potential. They are now able to compete with men in what was once a male dominated world.