Women’s roles in the society have dramatically changed over the past years. The traditional picture of women slaving in the kitchen while untangling herself from a web of other chores on top of taking care of a crying baby is slowly being replaced. Nowadays, many women have gone beyond just being able to take care of children and keeping the house clean. Through time, it slowly became evident that women are slowly making their way into the male-dominated world, which is a tough challenge. So much so that entering professions and progressing in workplaces that are normally male populated pose a challenge for many women. This glass ceiling is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an unfair system or set of attitudes that prevents some people (such as women or people of a certain race) from getting the most powerful jobs.”
So the question now shifts to how glass ceiling affects the progression of women to senior positions in contemporary organizations. To answer this, the paper shall first enumerate some of the barriers women face in various organizations, before a discussion of how these barriers affect their progression in organizations will be offered.
According to Black, Gregerson, Mendenhall and Stroh (qtd. in Bombuwela and De Alwis, 3), more and more women are participating in the global market for the past 50 years. This number suggests that women are now taking active part and are striving to enter management positions, politics, corporate opportunities and other movements and initiatives. However, there are existing barriers to these initiatives. One of the barriers is underrepresentation. A study by Hoobler, Lemmon, Wayne stated Catalyst, a non-profit research group, found that even if “51 percent of all managerial and professional jobs in the US are composed of women, only seven percent hold the titles of chairwoman, CEO, COO, EVP” (151). This statement hence echoes that because there are fewer women in senior positions, it is an indication that these positions are unachievable for them. Additionally, the lack of women in higher positions could also suggest that there is an existing “implicit values and culture of the organization” (Hoobler et.al., 151), which also indicates that there is a preference for men over women existing in the organization.
Another barrier is the selection process. Even with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that specifically disallowed gender discrimination in hiring, there seemed to be a preference in some organizations towards males over women. Reasons for the bias in the selection process are associated various reasons such as women candidates either lack the skills and experience or some firms simply do not consider them for the position (Burke and Nelson, qtd. in Elmuti and Jira, 170). Another reason would be the existing management who simply tend to prefer men over women.
Elmuti and Jira dictates additional barriers (170-172). These are workplace relationships, globalization, internal motivation, and lifestyle conflicts. Evidently, in the workplace, people tend to relate more to people they have similar interests in. Since it is common to find men at the top management and only a few women in the same position, mentors in the higher rank would often be men. Since there are only a few women mentors in higher positions, often, trainees would more likely be men as well.
Secondly, with the period of globalization demanding more responsibilities and expectations, women who juggle family life and career need to take serious considerations in terms of relocation and time pressure. Following this barrier is the internal motivation. Women who experience work pressure, discrimination or family life sometimes feel less motivated as they have to choose one over the other.
In the same manner, women’s lifestyle can come in as barriers to their progression in the organization as well. Those who have families or children face bigger demands from both ends of their career and family life. Balancing family and work can be a messy task and sometimes, women are forced to leave work to be able to take care of the family’s needs.
All these elements affect their progression in the organizations as it hampers their ability to contribute productively and creativity. Additionally, the social problem of being discriminated leads to women’s self-esteem issues and work-life imbalance. Thirdly, even with women showing great potentials, advancement in their career is placed on a compromise because of the glass ceiling perception in organizations. It is important to note, however, that ideally, a pipeline phenomenon would eventually occur should more women begin to assert themselves aggressively into position.
Hoobler et al. assumes that “when enough qualified women are ‘in the pipeline’ they will eventually assume leadership positions in senior management in equal numbers to men” (152) which means that the glass ceiling case may still be broken. As women are already being recognized in many organizational areas, they begin to change the perceptions about women as well. Take for example Mary T. Barra who is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Motors Company. Odd as it may be, since GMC is a maker of vehicles in America, and knowledge about managing and the technicality of this field is often associated with men where women are not expected to be interested in, is taken over by a woman. Another is Marissa Mayer who is Chief Executive Officer, President & Director of Yahoo! These examples are representative of how women can be valuable assets to companies and organizations, seeing that they are able to enter into a man’s world and do a man’s job.
Bombuwela, P. M., and A. Chamaru De Alwis. “Effects of Glass Ceiling on Women Career Development in Private Sector Organizations – Case of Sri Lanka.” Journal of Competitiveness, vol. 5, no. 2, 2013, pp. 3-19, www.cjournal.cz/files/130.pdf. Accessed 2 October 2016.
Elmuti, Dean, Heather Jia, and Henry H. Davis. “Challenges Women Face in Leadership Positions and Organizational Effectiveness.” Journal of Leadership Education, vol. 8, no. 2, 2009, pp.167-87, www.journalofleadershiped.org/attachments/article/178/Elmuti%20Jia%20and%20Davis.pdf. Accessed 2 October 2016.
Hoobler, Jenny M., Grace Lemmon, and Sandy J. Wayne. “Women’s Underrepresentation in Upper Management.” Organizational Dynamics, vol. 40, no. 3, 2011, pp. 151-56, www.uky.edu/Centers/iwin/RTOCT12/HooblerWomeninManagement.pdf. Accessed 2 October 2016.
Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/glass%20ceiling. Accessed 02 October 2016.