Proverbial Glass Ceiling

The purpose of this study of the proverbial glass ceiling is to prove that women are still the minority in the workplace and describe and discuss all the challenges that women continue to face in this man domineering world. The glass ceiling is seen as an obstacle to advancement of career for women in the world today. During the last decade, there has been a spectacular increase in the numbers of women who have recently entered fresh and new workplace in both developing and developed countries. The major contributing factor is the rise of the number of women who undertake professional studies such as engineering, law, banking among other studies and other women have already finished their studies in these courses which were known to be dominated by men in the early days. Therefore the number of women who seek to pursue managerial and professional careers is increasing day by day.

However, despite all the efforts that the women make to be part of the high managerial positions in the corporate world, we find that only a few have been able to reach these positions. Very few women are CEOs of the large organizations, and also very few women are chosen to be members of board of directors in the private sector organizations. This can be well explained by the glass ceiling that exists and artificially limits the advancement of women which has now turned into being a global phenomenon. This glass ceiling however leads to underutilized or wasted talent of the women and it is needed in the corporate world. This leads to the companies not operating in their full capacities and also the women could help in improvement of the economy at large.

The glass ceiling could occur because of such reasons and factors as sexual discrimination, social pressures, and prejudice of colleagues, inflexible working patterns, insufficient education, and lack of proper training provision, family commitments, lack of adequate confidence, and lack of adequate childcare among others.


The glass ceiling refers to the obstacle in the corporate world which prevents the women from progressing within the hierarchy of the organizations in their respective nations. The glass ceiling is present in almost if not all industries. There are different variations of this term which may include: the bamboo ceiling, glass cliff, and glass elevator. An example is in America, the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission gave out a report last year which stated that only 7%-9% of the senior managers at the Fortune 1000 firms were women. This is a very low percentage compared to the number of the domineering men who are in the same position (Robert & Mary 2009).

This paper is concerned more on the reasons why women are ranked lower than the men in high managerial positions. In America, we would refer to the minority women to be African American, Latino and Asian women. This paper will also look at the challenges that women face and the reasons for the discrimination that women face in their places of work. As a conclusion this paper will try to give information on how to overcome the challenges and obstacles in the corporate world.

Women from the time they are born are viewed as being inferior to their counterparts’ men. As a society the babies are labeled by the colors of their blankets. The girls have pink blankets whereas the boys use blue blankets. This is the initial separation of the two genders. As both grow, the girls are taught to play nice with dolls whereas the boys are taught how to play rough games and are given action figures. These two games help to expand the gap between the two genders. The world then has revolutionized and progressed but there are still some aspects that have not revolutionized. The world has not recognized the women equality in general. As a result, the intelligence of any woman is always looked down upon by the men or male gender. An English Professor named Johanne Toussaint, stated that, “the views of women in which their role is that of keeper of hearth and home while that of a man is to provide for and protect this weaker sex which is a view which continues to define different social roles for women and men” (the glass ceiling). The differences explained by this professor in the social responsibilities create a huge barricade in the workplace for all women (Davidson & Burke, 2004).

The word “Glass Ceiling” is defined by the Webster’s dictionary as “the maximum position and salary some claim women are allowed to reach without any chances of further promotion or advancement within an employment scenario” (Webster’s). This means that the obstacles are there for all women to reach the high positions in the corporate world. The women have not been able to show their optimal and full potential because of the differences and disparities that exist between the two genders. The existing differences have made it very easy to authenticate the unequal treatment of the women in all levels of authority. The differences have caused a great and visible imbalance between the two genders in the places of work.    

Literature review

The women have always been seen and viewed as “homemakers” and “housewives.” This is one challenge that the women have faced in their work places. The journey to acquiring high-level positions for women in the corporate world is hard, difficult and long though it also requires persistence and motivation. The modern mother requires several roles that include wife, mother and employee and almost every woman strives and works hard in order to balance these roles and responsibilities that they hold in the society. They are defined by culture and social orientation.

This term “glass ceiling” was made popular in 1986 in a Wall Street Journal article which described the unseen obstacles that the women would confront as they approached the top of the hierarchy in the corporate (Dunn, 1997). After some time, the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission which was a bipartisan body comprising of 21 members appointed a woman as a member of the commission. The commission helped to research on what challenges and obstacles that the women have to go through in their quest to hold high positions in the corporate world.

Women have been streamlined as lower-grade and part-time workers with very few opportunities for advancement and training. This is an example of the stereotypes that women have to face as they fight for the high managerial positions. This is due to the “glass ceiling.” The American women for example have struggled for their role in the corporate world since the year 1848. This fight was started by the Seneca Falls Convention held in 1848 which helped to begin a women’s rights movement. A number of women demanded the right to claim progress in property rights, right to vote, right to experience educational and employment opportunities, right to social freedoms, and also made other demands that touched all aspects of their life. They were given the right to vote. Later on in the 1920s, the women struggled to expand a work identity which would give the women professional status and also help to preserve their femininity (Walkowitz, 1999). Women at last started working outside their homes but not at the level, rank and status that they needed and deserved. The jobs and positions that they held at first were feminine and simple. These included office helpers, assistants to the male executives and office helpers.

Gender plays a very important role in the success of the workplace but could also be a huge challenge if the employee is a lady in a workplace dominated by men in her career. Though a woman maybe ruthless, hard-nosed, workaholic, or has attained so much personal success, there will always have a tendency to some kind of barrier which will keep her from getting to the top most position in the corporate world. The woman has to fight so much of the stereotypes that try to undermine the confidence that she has or also tries to limit her potential (Powell & Graves 2003). From the early 20th century, minorities and women have been trying to seek equal opportunities in labor force and in education but with very little success. These obstacles may result from psychological and institutional practices (Walkowitz 1999).

The glass ceiling always exists in three different levels that include: apprenticeship, the pipeline and Alice in Wonderland. However not all organizations have the three levels because one level could outdo the others in one part of the organization and yet not in the other part. In terms of apprenticeship; the women mostly in United States have been have been admitted into the apprenticeship programs in very big numbers for such a long time, and this is seemingly easy for the young women to believe and for the management to emphasize that discrimination is very obsolete, and that glass ceiling is either a subject or a myth that will automatically decompose over a given period of time. The obstacles in the apprenticeship level does exist and even though the instantaneous economic consequences are not getting attention, meaning that not many apprentices think there will be long-term implications in the many companies in the corporate world (Dunn 1997).

Women have fought relentlessly in the last fifty years against discrimination that exists against the female gender. They face challenges and discrimination in places of business, profession, education and the political arena in the society. Though the war against discrimination has been won and half of the labor in the corporate world is given by the women in the society, the full equality between the two genders has not yet been gained. This discrimination has been manifested in different ways (Diana & Sandy, 2007). First, the women are still paid poorly and much less than the men for the same corresponding jobs. Secondly, women have formed the chief part of temporary and part-time workforce.

The women in this world are segregated into similar so-called ‘female’ jobs and professions and due to this the women are not well represented in the other major professions. This means that the women are concerted in the professions stereotyped to be “women’s jobs.” The women for example are very poorly presented in computer science, science itself and the engineering occupations. These occupations are well paying and very prestigious in our society today. Fourthly, the more prestigious occupations and positions with power are always reserved for the men because often women come across the ‘glass ceiling’. Finally, women are known to often carry out the ‘second shift’ of housework at their homes, which is always undervalued and unpaid (Davidson & Burke, 2004).

The job inequality that we find here is mostly rooted in the larger social inequality, which seeks separation of boys and girls from the early age as we had seen earlier which in turn sharply defines female and male roles within the society at large and also within the family. The early perception of various jobs as feminine has had a large important impact on the perception of the women in the job sector of the corporate world.

Gender is a means for the society to divide the people into the categories: “women” and “men”. This gender is created by people through the social interactions that they have with others. Gender however is not biologically determined but is produced culturally. This gender inequality can also be because the women and the men are socialized into different roles. By this we find that the roles of men are valued more than the roles of the women. Gender to some extent serves as a social status. It is often argued that the women and men do not have the same life options. We can argue this by pointing out that the women are not the only people who should take care of the children after giving up their career. The children are brought into this world by both the parents who have commitment and full responsibility of raising the children. We should try at some point to switch this role and find out what would happen. The women should not be the ones to give up their careers in order to raise the children. From their early age, the women are taught to give up their careers and dreams to dedicate their lives to be housewives (Davidson & Burke, 2004).

Another challenge that the women face is that they are viewed to be less people than the men and even assumptions have been made about the lives of women. Some people have assumed that a certain number of women become word processors and typists because it is natural for the women to have these kind of jobs (Dunn, 2007). This is a very dangerous stereotype because therefore it would be absolutely hard for the same woman to rise up the hierarchy ladder to high managerial positions because they are seen to be generally as people who belong below and under the men. It is also always assumed to be natural that the women should take care of their children rather than the men and therefore it becomes almost impossible to try and make men to take care of their babies.

Lastly, seeing women taking very low positions and living under obsolete poverty in the society is seen as a result of the natural abilities that she has. The families that raise a number of children on their self-effacing income could always switch back and forth, and this would allow both the husband and the wife to take turns developing their careers and also taking care of their children. These factors are referred to as “gender based assumptions about aspirations and careers” (McCracken 1998). The primary focus of women is their family and this makes career a secondary focus. This assumption leads to the conclusion that women are not very dependable because all their loyalty has turned to families and the men are entirely focused on their work priorities.

According to the Department of Labor in May 2001, the females accounted for 43.99% of the total workforce but very few had succeeded in the attainment of the senior level positions in the United States. This fact does not allow the discounting of the allegations of the existing between women and men in the place of work and this helps to prove to us that the consequences of glass ceiling are still widespread.

Another challenge that women face is the absence of informal and formal leadership advancement and the networking potential that exacerbate the inequality between men and women. Organizations need to work together especially the employees in order to achieve the specified set goals and also to easily solve problems that may arise. Organizations are always structured in a hierarchy form; there are the top level managements and the presidents, CEOs and other head people. At the lower level, there are the rest of the employees who work hard in order to climb up in the corporation ladder to the higher levels. Whenever the employees are promoted, there are rewards such as higher salary and benefits such as flextime.  Since the beginning, the world is dominated by the male gender more so in the places of work. Men have been seen as the heads and leaders of everything all the way from the family (Diana & Sandy 2007).

Discussion and Findings

The women are always seen as nurturers and that they should provide good families to the men and also be ready to take care of the families. The place of the women has never been seen to be in workplaces because it has always been viewed to strictly belong to the men. In the early days the women were not allowed to be in the work place and they belonged to the homes. It was only after World War II that women were allowed to enter the workforce in huge numbers and the reason why they were sent to these workplaces was only because the men were being sent to other lands in order to fight in the First World War. Due to this, the women were sent to the factories so that the existing corporations could still be in operation (McCracken 1998).

During the Second World War, the women designed a Rosie the Riveter poster which bared the motto that they were able to do what their men could do in the workplaces. This made the women to follow the others into the factory floors where their men were working before the war broke out. Once the war was over, the women were forced back to their homes but since then they started to infiltrate into the workplaces. Year after year, there were many women who joined the workforce though they took up the lower jobs and the so-called inferior jobs. This has continued even today though there are also other improvements that have been made.

From the time that a woman enters the workplace straight from college, she is encountered with so much unjust belief and discrimination so that she will not be able to perform well in the workplace like the man. A woman and a man, who have the same qualification, training, and education for a certain job, will have a relatively considerable gap in their annual income. Statistics taken from the United States indicate that in a first year job, a woman will earn $12,201 whereas the man will earn $14,619. This is a gap in the pay of 17 percent (Gender Pay 1). However there is no valid reason why there should be the any disparity in the incomes of the two genders during their first year of the jobs. They both have gone through the same formal education and have similar qualifications that are necessary for the job, yet they are treated unequally. The female employer has not shown incapability in accomplishing her job and therefore there is no reason why the employer should doubt her capabilities and commitment to her career. It is just that because she is a woman and this is a challenge and discrimination on the part of women.

However, the discrimination does not end here, after five years of steady working, at the same level and rate, the gap in the pay keeps increasing. The man gets an average pay of $28,119 and the female gets an average of $22,851 as their annual remuneration (Gender Pay 1). The man receives more money as payment and also is given the priority to more executive jobs when compared to the women in the corporate world. This is how discrimination has been so major for a number of years. The man will receive an average of 47 percent much more than the females during their lives (Gender Pay 1). This is not right and it is not acceptable though this is what has been going on for long. Both the women and the men have accepted this way of philosophy as the right and have allowed it to continue. Several changes have occurred and women hold top positions especially in the last few years. These advances seem positive but they are nowhere near equality. The statistics indicate that there is a 14 percent increase in the numbers of women who are in executive jobs but worse still the increase is coupled with a lot more discrimination.

Senior executives’ insights of men and women are much more informed by the gender based stereotypes other than facts. These perceptions lead to misrepresentation of the real talents of women and this contributes heavily to the large gap that exists in the business management. The effects of the gender based stereotyping are always potentially undermining the capacity of women to lead, devastating, and pose very serious challenges to career advancement of women. The women are mostly stereotyped as better at feminine “caretaking skills” such as rewarding and supporting. On the other hand however, the men are often perceived as better at typically masculine “taking charge” skills such as delegating responsibility and influence superiors (Davidson & Burke 2004).

Men are often known to be better problem solvers when compared to women. Women make up less than 2 percent of the US Fortune 100 and 500 CEOs. This glass ceiling is sometimes known to be caused by the women themselves when they choose to work for fewer hours in order to take care of their families. Women also allow the glass ceiling to continue especially when they measure their success differently from the men. Women measure their success in the workplace very differently from the men. The women place a high value on the relationships with other colleagues and the contribution towards community service whereas the men measure their success by important job titles and high salaries (Powell & Graves, 2003).

The glass ceiling is also thought to be caused by ingrained socialization and stereotypes. There are family programs in almost every organization and the employees are encouraged to take advantage of them but men are reluctant to do because they find it as a way to undermine their success in the organization whereas the women have no option or love to take advantage of these programs just to be near their families.

Other issues that women face in the workplaces include extensive travels if they are to be considered for the executive jobs within the organizations. The extensive travels sometimes are challenges to the women because they still need to balance work life and family. However teleconferencing and video conferencing has offered an alternative to the extensive travels but of course these cannot replace face to face meetings for relationship contract and building negotiations (Powell & Graves 2003).   

A recent study conducted by the consulting firm Accenture in 2008 has indicated that almost 70% of women and 57% of men believe that a glass ceiling still exists to prevent the women from advancing in business and in their workplaces. According to another report by, 97% of the Fortune a hundred companies have a minimum of one woman in their boards and also 188 companies of the Fortune 500 have only 2 or more women as directors; 34 companies on the other hand have 3 or more women as directors. In the United States, only 16 Senators out of the 100 Senators are women and 74 women are allowed to sit in the House of Representatives. From these statistics we can conclude that the glass ceiling still exists in the United States even in politics and workplaces (Davidson & Burke, 2004).


The Glass ceiling or the obstacles that exist against women is perpetuated by four primary reasons and these include: exclusionism, commitment, wide gap and finally role models. One of the largest issue that women face is the existing issue of the “old boy’s club” and also the exclusion of women from the networks that are available. Due to this the women have turned into self-employment and therefore this has made the number of these self-employed women to increase by 33% especially over the last 20 years while a third of the small businesses in the United States are owned and managed by women. This is by a recent study carried out by the Small Business Administration. From here we find that when women are faced by discrimination in the workplace, they quickly turn to owning their own businesses in order to benefit from them (Felicia 2001).

The women are excluded but they do not stay idle but have designed their own way of dealing with the glass ceiling in their places of work.  However not every woman is in the position to start a business and so most of them work on building up alliances. The businesses help the women to develop good relationships, network largely with other professionals of both gender and also they build strong team building and interpersonal skills which thereby help them to advance their career.

Commitment is another factor that brings about the glass ceiling. Almost every employer believes that women will at some point quit their jobs in order either to start families or to care for the elderly parents. This makes it less likely that an organization will invest in the woman’s career but the real reason why the women are pushed away by the lack of opportunity in the workplaces. The women should show the willingness and commitment to take on new risks and challenges (Ronald & Burke, 2005). The women are always encouraged to move beyond the higher education and book learning to learn much about business. The women are encouraged to be vocal about their personal ambitions, to think big-picture strategic issues, changes in industry and also observe carefully the market trends. By these they would be more competitive with men.

The other factor is the wage gap that we had discussed earlier, the employers view women as being less committed to their jobs in their workplaces and this makes them to be paid less. This is not necessarily true but it is a stereotype ad shows discrimination without good bases. They are paid less because they are less committed. A report by Business Week released in 2007, the women earn just 80% of what the men earn after one year after college, this figure decreases to 69% by the time they reach the ten year mark. The women are encouraged not to settle on what they are offered though overcoming this wage gap difference could be difficult because they start at a disadvantaged level, they are encouraged to ask and negotiate on what they deserve. The payment should be based upon years of experience, education and the number of years of working with the company and should not e based on gender which is termed as discrimination (Ronald, Burke & Mary 2005).

The other factor is role models. It is increasingly becoming difficult to find people to emulate especially on the basis of women climbing up the hierarchy ladder. The women allow themselves to be discriminated against because they do not have others to lead the way. Women of all ages are advised to find mentors of either gender to assist them in finding the ropes which would assist them to navigate the political minefields and also direct them on how to further their career. When they succeed they should aspire to hire other women who are well qualified and also be mentors to the other young women. The world today especially in the workplaces and businesses is still riddled with a variety of assumptions, historical biases and misconceptions towards the women. The women however should strive to persevere and try and crack this glass ceiling even though it might prove to be difficult. The proverbial glass ceiling still exists but can be overcome (Davidson & Burke, 2004).

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