Looking through the Glass Ceiling

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Updated: Feb 24, 2021
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Looking through the Glass Ceiling essay

From a young age, we are taught in school that success in life is obtainable by a fairly simple process; do well in high school, get a degree, and work hard at your job to achieve promotions. As long as you do these things and don’t get pregnant early or get a criminal record, you should be fairly well off. What happens when this process is not so easy? It is tough enough to do well in school while balancing all the other things that happen on a daily basis, and finding a job nowadays is no simple task. This process becomes even harder when there is a systematic bias against you. One could go through all of the previously mentioned steps and still come to a standstill in their career based on things out of their own control. This is something that our society has noticed that women are experiencing. A phenomenon called the “glass ceiling” is one that describes the systematic bias against women when they are seeking to obtain higher level roles within their workplace. I have done independent research on the topic and have interviewed someone with real world experience with this issue in order to prepare an analysis on the phenomenon we call “the glass ceiling.”

In order to start at the beginning of this issue, we would need to analyze why it is happening in the first place. According to Sandra Jones at University of Chicago Booth School of Business, there are three key reasons why women experience an invisible barrier to promotions in the workforce. The first reason is that women tend to choose degrees that are not categorized as ones that lead to high wages. Women in the United States have surpassed men in the numbers of which that have college degrees. However, they tend to avoid majors that in turn lead to higher paying jobs (Jones). I can attest to this as I am in a major that tends to yield a high earning occupation and there is an unequal balance of men and women. All my major courses are taught by men and the classes themselves are male dominated. Secondly, research has shown that there is a psychological difference in men and women that limits the amount of risks women are willing to take. Willingness to take risks helps one seek promotion and to negotiate higher salaries (Jones). Whether this psychological difference is natural or based on societal factors is not clear. Nonetheless, a less dominant attituded that some women may have ends up hurting them when it comes time to seek advancement. The last of the three main reasons that women experience a barrier when seeking advancement in the workplace is that women are often tasked with having to take care of the home and their children. There is a disproportionate balance of the responsibilities that men and women have in relation to their household duties and family obligations. Higher level jobs require more time and stress and because women often have to carry a heavier weight in responsibilities outside work, they often cannot take on more in the workplace (Jones). This limits their opportunity for job advancement. However, this is not what all women experience.

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I interviewed my mother who is a project manager at the Illinois State Board of education. I chose her as my subject because she has experienced the process of seeking job promotion and has ultimately been successful at it multiple times. Her experience is not the one that is told by many women in the workforce. Before addressing her comments on the glass ceiling phenomenon, I would like to mention biases that my subject may possess. First of all, Natalia Foard is an immigrant and was raised in a strict household which allowed for a very confident and strong mentality. She moved to America with specific goals and desires so she by no means let her gender defy her when searching for employment. Secondly, she is employed by the state and gender bias is likely at a lower level for government positions when compared to private businesses. When asked whether Natalia has experienced gender discrimination when seeking promotion and ultimately in her achieved position, she immediately said no. My mother feels as though her workplace has always been professional and fair. She named one instance though where she felt uncomfortable in relation to her gender. She was once on a team with two other males and my mother said that when she would give her ideas to the team leader, he was rudely dismissive but when her male coworker gave similar ideas, the team leader accepted them and rewarded praise. My mother felt as though this was gender related and likely the only gender related issue she has experienced (Foard).

My mother has always been very dominant and hard working. I asked questions that related to the previously mentioned reasons that women experience trouble when seeking promotion and after every question it become more and more clear that her experience does not align with the experience that my research has presented me with. I believe my mother’s confidence and strong willed attitude has been very rewarding for her in terms of job promotion and overall work success. When asked about her work/home balance, Natalia answered that she tries to leave her work, at work. Besides replying to an occasional email after hours she does not do any work outside of her standard office hours (Foard). I personally noticed this as well. My mother remarried to a coworker about 10 years ago and I would often hear her tell her husband that when they were at home she did not want to discuss work. My mother said that she enjoys her job but really prefers to leave it where it belongs- in the office (Foard). After getting a feel for her experience as a women in the workforce and understanding that her experience does not fit the story of one that experienced many barriers, I asked her what she felt was the future for women in the workforce. More specifically, what can they do to be more successful and hopefully to see less of a barrier when seeking advancement. Natalia answered that women should/will be more active in their roles at work (Foard). This aligns with the risk taking reason mentioned earlier. If women devote themselves more to their roles and show more willingness to dominate and take risk, we will likely see a more equal distribution of men and women at the top levels of industry.

One of the perspectives of the glass ceiling that I had not thought of before my research was the men’s club aspect at the higher levels of industry. According to “The Glass Ceiling: How Women Are Blocked from Getting to the Top,” male leaders at the executive level tend to choose candidates that look like themselves to add to/replace their positions. Decisions in private business are often made by a table of men because women are often not seen as policy makers (Glass Ceiling). Although many of us have never been to an executive board at a business, this men’s club idea is something that we see all the time in movies. The evidence here is not just anecdotal. Los Angeles Times did a recent poll of 12,000 workers and they found that two-thirds testified to sexual discrimination against them (Glass Ceiling). Besides this one, the studies in this article seem to be outdated. However, my last research source was a study posted in 2017 that discusses the experience of women in STEM related careers which is known for its skewed gender distribution.

In the study titled “Looking through the Glass Ceiling: A Qualitative Study of STEM Women’s Career Narratives,” women were given the opportunity to express their feelings towards advancement in their STEM careers after statistical research showed the inequality of women in the workforce. Beforehand, it was found that women achieve better grades and are more likely to work towards post-secondary degrees than men are. However, 36% of companies have no women on their board of directors and this number raises substantially when focusing on energy companies where 61% of their corporate boards do not have any women on them (Amon). Because of these findings, a study was done to find a conclusion of how women in STEM felt about their roles in leadership. In this study done by a team lead by Mary J. Amon, forty six graduates with degrees in STEM related fields were interviewed and then instructed to bring in four photographs; two detailing their past experience in leadership roles and two describing their goals for future leadership. After qualitative data analysis was applied to the textual write ups of the subject interviews and the subjects’ explanations of their photographs, their feelings were categorized under the three main theoretical frameworks: Motivation, Barriers, and Buffers. Furthermore, categories were labeled as themes if they were mentioned by at least 25% of participants (Amon). Here is the table that summarizes the categories and the themes within them:

In conclusion, the study found that the participants reported that they had less social freedom in their workplace than their male counterparts. More importantly, the subjects felt that their lack of successful social interactions at work limits their success in workplace opportunities more so than the policies of their workplace (Amon). This boils down to the idea that discrimination in STEM fields, and likely among all fields where sexism exists, is more of a social issue than it is one of policy.

After an issue has been recognized and analyzed, we can then find a way to attack it. The fact that sexism is a social issue more so than one of policy shows that this likely cannot be fixed with laws but more so with conversation and advocacy. If we raise attention to the inequality of the workplace in areas where it exists, hopefully, we can see change for the better.

I personally feel as though the concept of women being oppressed of their opportunities for success in seeking higher level positions is slightly outdated. Some of the data we see nowadays used in that argument is no longer fitting and does not fit the standard of the average company. Things have changed for the better since a lot of the studies and polls were conducted about women’s perspective on these kinds of issues. We are in the midst of a social revolution where people of all groups are fighting for equality, and I think it is successful. Because of my lack of real experience and understanding of discrimination in the workplace, I decided to choose this topic because it forces me to do quality research and find more understanding of the glass ceiling phenomenon. I hope that when I enter the workforce I do not have to witness any discrimination against myself or others. I hope for an ideal world even when I know this is not possible. With my knowledge and background from this course I will surely be more mindful of my actions in the work place and attentive to how others are being treated by their superiors.

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Looking Through the Glass Ceiling. (2021, Feb 24). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/looking-through-the-glass-ceiling/