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The Glass Cieling

In: Business and Management

Submitted By ulrichk
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The expression glass ceiling had been used to describe the artificial barrier placed on individuals that prevent them from advancing to high ranking positions within an organization despite the fact they are qualified. Although the glass ceiling can be experienced by any individual, it is primarily encountered by women. While many people realize the glass ceiling is still intact, some believe it has been broken by women. There are many factors in today’s work environment that allude to the fact that women are still facing the glass ceiling. Understanding what is holding women under the glass ceiling and what they bring to organizations when in higher ranking positions will make it all the more possible for women to break through the glass ceiling. While some women have broken through the glass ceiling, many still feel as though they are being held back. In a 2011 study it was found that in America women made up less than eighteen percent of senior managers in companies (Too Many Suits, 2). This small number can be contributed to many factors that keep women from advancing in the workplace. A primary reason holding women back is the outdated gender roles that are rooted deep inside many people’s minds. Professor Macarie and administrative and communication specialist Moldovan agree with Snowdon, Guardian business editor, in the belief that gender stereotypes have a lot of impact on keeping women from advancing in the workplace. Generally women are perceived as emotional, empathetic, dependent, and non-competitive and men as aggressive and full of drive. When these characteristics are still associated with women, in comparison to men when deciding between candidates, women’s opportunity to climb the organizational ladder is limited (Macarie, 156). 
 Another crucial reason that ties together with the gender roles is that women are not advancing as fast as men is due to the makeup of many executive boards. Traditionally boards are made up of males with similar backgrounds who like to recruit new coworkers similar to themselves (Too Many Suits 2). There are not enough women in high ranking jobs to show how it is done. With the lack of high profile women role models it is hard for not only women, but especially men, to imagine a woman in the driver’s seat (Snowdon, 2). With absence of women role models this makes many women reluctant to seek out higher positions within a company. In a 2010 poll among American women it was found that there is a growing “ambition gap” compared to men. Women seem to be less ambitious than women were twenty years ago. Many women reported this was due to the planning ahead about starting a family and knowing they would be needing off work in the semi-close future (Too Many Suits, 5). But this is not the entire reason. Many women also took a longer, harder look, compared to men, at what it takes to be at the top and conclude it is not worth the effort. Many women believed they would not enjoy all the extremes of a high ranking job such as huge responsibility, working a constant sixty or more hours a week, and continual travel. This “ambition gap” could be related to the different tastes, values, and desires and all these differences between men and women mean they behave differently in the workplace. as British Centre for Policy Study Representative, Catherine Hakim discovered. Another large factor that is holding women back from advancing as fast as men is the fact that women are typically the primary care givers to children and family members. As many women climb the ranks in the business world, they begin realize that family is more important to them. This realization that many women make is a large factor that keeps them from reaching high profile positions. This family issue for women ties in with the issue of how women have different priorities then men and most women weigh their family as more important than being in a top position at work, since having a high demanding job would take away from their family time (Lockwood, 8). Women are not under the same pressure as men to achieve, so most women will aim for a balanced life with family and work rather than put all their effort towards achieving a top position (Too Many Suits, 6). Although there are many women who feel as though they are being held under the glass ceiling, there are the few who have broke through it. Of the eighteen percent (Too Many Suits, 2) of women who held top positions in organizations, a correlation was found between larger numbers of women in high ranking positions and a higher standard of overall performance (The Conundrum, 3). When understanding what women bring to organizations it will make it all the more possible for them to break thorough the glass ceiling. The few and the proud high ranking women in organizations have been associated with making an organization more productive in many areas. These areas that have experienced growth, when more women were present in top positions are added diversity leading to: higher profits, and critical criteria such as leadership, accountability, and innovation. Since women make up nearly fifty percent of talent available for the workforce it seems ridiculously wasteful to leave them out of the running for high ranking jobs. When women are in top jobs they add diversity of experience and outlook. When an organization is more diverse, it is much more likely that the organization will excel at generating new ideas compared to those organizations that have like-minded people residing in their comfort zones (Too Many Suits, 4). While many organizations stick to their tried and true system of promoting high ranking individuals, mostly men, a few very successful companies have seen the advantages of promoting women to higher positions. These few companies no longer see the advancement of women in the workplace exclusively as a moral concern of equal opportunity and equal pay, they see the advantages of a diverse team and organization, that comes with the advancement of women. It has long been known that heterogeneous groups are exceptionally better at solving problems than groups of one mind( The Conundrum,3). Catalyst, an American organization that aims to expand opportunities for women and business, found a distinct correlation in Fortune 500 companies among the number of women in head executive positions and the organizations financial efficiency, during the years of 1996 and 2000 (The Conundrum, 3). In 2004 Catalyst once again looked at the achievements of Fortune 500 companies and found that the company with the largest presence of women in high management positions had a much more superior return on equity than those companies with the lowest representation of women. Three years later Catalyst went back and analyzed the boards of directors of the same companies and found the same results; those with more women were more fruitful and proficient than those companies with small numbers of women (Too Many Suits, 4). When considering what else women bring to the table when in executive positions it has been recognized that when more women are present in these positions that the organization typically excels in many other areas. A 2007 worldwide study done by McKinsey, a global management consulting firm, found that organizations with pronounced numbers of women in senior management did superior on a range of criteria comprised of leadership, accountability, and innovation; not to mention greater profit margins (Too Many Suits, 5). When a McKinsey research team globally polled business executives what they thought the most critical leadership characteristics are for success in the workforce today, the top characteristics - intellectual stimulation, ingenuity, participatory decision making, and setting expectations and rewards- were most frequently observed among women executives. Another study by the McKinsey Organizational Health Index also found that organizations with three or more women in executive positions scored higher than other organizations with less women in these positions. The nine sets of criteria they were evaluated on ranged from external organization to coordination and control; everything that associated with high performance organizations (Barsh, 1). All the positive links to women in top positions to organizational success are so consistent that if women could be seen more as an advantage than what they really are, it could finally be a way for all women to break through the glass ceiling.

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