Shattering the Glass Ceiling Breaking Barriers for Women Term Paper

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Shattering the glass ceiling.

History of the glass ceiling

Although the fact of the glass ceiling has probably been around since the first woman entered the first job market anywhere on earth, the term itself originate din a Wall Street Journal report in 1986. The report, about corporate women, "most frequently refers to barriers faced by women who attempt, or aspire, to attain senior positions (as well as higher salary levels) in corporations, government, education and nonprofit organizations. It can also refer to racial and ethnic minorities and men when they experience barriers to advancement" (Lockwood, 2004).

Although workplace discrimination is illegal in the United States it exists in a number of sub-rosa forms, including hiring practices and availability of training and development opportunities that can be offered to men -- especially men not in the same job description as women -- that are very hard to pinpoint and fight.

However, on a statistical basis alone, it remains a very important issue, and one worth solving, because representation of women in the workforce is rising. In 1998, women comprised 455 of the workforce, with men comprising 55%. By 2008, it is predicted that women will comprise 48% of the workforce, and men 52% (Lockwood, 2004). Despite this increase, and despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandating equal pay for men and women for substantially

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II. Why does the glass ceiling problem still exist?

Indeed, as a major point in the discussion, the fact that the discrimination that can lead to the 'glass ceiling effect' can be carried out so clandestinely is the underlying reason the problem still exists. Breaking it down from there, however, one can posit a number of specifics that are likely to contribute to women's continuing glass ceiling problems.

Term Paper on Shattering the Glass Ceiling Breaking Barriers for Women Assignment

A recent article in HR magazine identified a raft of possibilities that may contribute to the glass ceiling problem. Among them, and notably among those that are harder to pinpoint and counteract, are that "women who do not have opportunities to gain additional competencies are not likely to have the skills, such as specific managerial experience, required to compete for and be awarded equal positions as men and close the pay gap" (Lockwood, 2004).

Other 'invisible' reasons include:

1. The discomfort of white male managers with those unlike themselves (e.g., women and women of color).

2. The lack of accountability or incentives in organizations to develop diversity" (Catalyst, 2003, cited by Lockwood, 2004).

In addition, if one wants to consider the role of self-fulfilling prophecy in the matter, Lockwood (2004) also noted that, compared with 23% of women in 1996, only 30% of women in 2003 believed that their chances of being promoted to senior positions in their own organization had greatly improved in the previous five years; a gain in the 'belief' factor -- doubtless predicated on observation, and subsequently incorporated in the woman's belief system -- is certainly not a figure that offers much hope of significant change any time soon. Moreover, "Only 11% of women believed opportunities in the United States have improved in general " (Catalyst, 2003, cited by Lockwood, 2004).

Catalyst, an organization that has tracked women's progress for many years, notes, too, that the view of a company's CEO regarding women's advancement in the organization is critical if women in that organization are to reach high-ranking spots (cited by Lockwood, 2004). Catalyst also found that women and CEOs agreed on this fact. Surprisingly, nearly two-thirds (64%) of CEOs believed "it was the organization's responsibility to change to meet the needs of women in management" (Catalyst, 2003, cite by Lockwood, 2004). Not surprisingly, the same report noted that forty-seven percent of women expressed that exclusion form informal networks (often referred to as the good-ole-boy network) hindered their advancement, while only 18% of CEOs believed that to be true (Catalyst 2003, cited by Lockwood, 2004). On the other hand, CEOs believed more strongly that lack of mentoring was a hindrance to advancement (21%), while that factor was cited by only 16% of women.

However, as more than one researcher has noted, and as in indicated above, quantifiable factors -- statistics -- don't necessarily explain the phenomenon.

One must begin to look below the surface to find underlying causes. In fact, much glass-ceiling literature discusses communication styles as a factor in promotion to high positions. In the corporate world, some studies have shown that the communication style of men, that is, direct and factual, is preferred to that of women, a style that usually tends to be more interpersonal (Lockwood, 2004). The conclusion Lockwood (2004) cited was that women who do not use the more direct style were, conversely, more likely to advance than those who adopted the male style. Lockwood did not offer an explanation for this discrepancy between the stated preference and the success of women who did not reflect it.

Even research by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) was unable to explain the gap or the rather contrarian ways it expresses itself at times. They did conclude, however, that even taking into account differing work patterns of men and women (with women taking time off for childrearing, and so on), woman earned only 80%, approximately, of men's earnings in 2000. The GAO attempted to justify the gap by noting the factor of childrearing and suggesting that men and women handle their family responsibilities differently (GAO, October 2003, cited by Lockwood, 2004).

The Instituted for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) explained the gap more extensively, noting that the factors explaining the differences include work experience, education and lack of opportunities" (Caiazza 2003, cited by Lockwood, 2004). Perhaps the most distressing part of their findings were that the gap increases with age; as men reach the heights of their earning power, women are falling even farther behind. Women between the ages of 45 and 54 earned only 75% as much as men (Caiazza 2003, cited by Lockwood, 2004).

Lockwood (2004) concluded that:

According to research, the advancement of women to senior positions is paradoxical at best. While there has been some movement, much remains unchanged. Advancement continues to be a challenge due to the lack of support at the organizational level from organizational culture, policies and practices, insufficient training opportunities to develop new competencies, lack of role models and mentors, and few opportunities for advancement abroad, often due to cultural values and norms.

Wages do not, however, explain the pervasiveness of the continuing problem. Lockwood, (2004) notes that in 2002, women held only 105 of the line corporate officer positions in Fortune 500 companies. They did slightly better in holding corporate board of director positions, increasing from 105 in 1995 to 15% in 2002. In Fortune 500 corporations, also, representation of women as CEOs is also low, with only seven female CEOs of those companies in 2004, signifying an increase from 0.2% to 1.4% between 1995 and 2004. (However, it might be noted that Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett Packard, resigned her post in early February 2005 when the board lost confidence in her; arguably, this reduces the representation significantly, if not to its 1995 level.)

The glass ceiling for potential CEOs, therefore, appears to be made of almost unbreakable Plexiglas. However, the situation is not much better anywhere in the ranks of the it (information technology) field. Lemons & Parzinger (2001) offer several explanations for its particular persistence in that field. They note that in it, the glass ceiling may result from "educational aspects and family characteristics, corporate cultures, or sociological factors." They also enumerate a number of those factors, especially the educational factors. They note findings of a National Science Foundation report that says:

Women still take fewer high-level math and science courses in high school

Women earn fewer science and engineering bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees

Women remain less likely than white males to be employed in science and engineering" (Lemons & Parzinger, 2001).

Even when women and men in it are equally well educated, the gap remains, standing at about $13,200 "between men and women with science and engineering doctorates" (Lemons & Parzinger, 2001).

They, too, cite covert discrimination, but bring sociological factors into the discussion, noting that "Covert discrimination may begin many years before a woman enters the career path of technology" (Lemons & Parzinger, 2001) as little girls are taught at home to be nurturers. The culture of the organization itself, however, was also noted as problematical, especially in it. They cite Rosabeth Moss Kanter's work in identifying four 'acceptable' roles for women -- mother, confidante, seductress and pet -- noting that women who operate outside these roles are considered deviants. In turn, they are then regarded as "feminists" and that, too, holds negative workplace consequences for them (Lemons & Parzinger, 2001). It reads like a rock and a hard place situation, which Lemons & Parzinger indicate that it is. Moreover, they say that tokenism, too, plays a part.

They also identified logistical/sub rosa reasons, including that women have to fight for projects of value, projects that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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