Burbank, California; January, 23, 2002; Joan Marques, MBA, Doctoral Student.
It all depends on how you look at it. Some would say that significant progress has been made where it regards the glass ceiling; others would just laugh and ask you where your eyes are.
Baker & Lightle (2001) state that “[t]he term glass ceiling was first used in a 1986 Wall Street journal article, referring to invisible barriers that impeded the career advancement of women in the American work force. In more recent years, the term has come to include underrepresented minority groups.” (p.18)
According to Baker & Lightle (2001), the Civil Rights Act of 1991 established the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission with the mission “to assess the barriers hindering "the advancement of women and minorities to management and decision-- making positions:' and to make recommendations toward bringing down such barriers.” (p.18)
Although Baker & Lightle (2001) conclude that “progress has been made in the [federal] auditing field,” they also recommend that “further research is required to determine the precise reasons behind that progress.” (p.26) They exclaim that in general “[t]he glass ceiling has in no way disappeared, but it is certainly starting to show some weaknesses.” (Baker & Lightle, 2001, p.26)
It seems that in sales, women have managed to make quite some progress in the past 30 years. McDonald (2001) cites Louise Canter, senior vice president at Patterson-- Smith Associates in Falls Church, Va., who explains that even though “[i]t has not been a quick or easy process,” (p.43) women have succeeded in becoming prosperous agents, due to the fact that “they're more detail-oriented, more relationship-oriented and they relate well to clients.” (p.43). Rightfully, Canter also remarks that women should do more networking (McDonald, 2001, p.43). “"Men have their Lions clubs and other organizations, which were established by men and [are] attended by men," she says. "I believe it is the matter of a couple of [women] organizing and then motivating other women to attend." (McDonald, 2001, p.43).
Seen within the broader scope of minorities as victims of the glass ceiling, Wallace (2001) states that
“[A]s the national and international economies have found themselves in a downward spiral, more and more major U.S. companies are "downsizing" or "right-sizing" to cope with the changing economic conditions, [m]ore than ever before, franchise businesses-with their highly recognized brands and sophisticated marketing and advertising programs-- are attracting extremely motivated entrepreneurs. And increasingly, these former employees of the new economy are business people from the ranks of our country's minority community. For many minorities, franchising is providing the tool needed to break the "glass ceiling" found in many segments of the economy. It is proving to be a way to achieve one part of the American dream - owning one's own business.” (p.23)
Whether that part of the glass ceiling will really come down through the abovementioned developments, is a miracle that we still have in store to be realized.
One of the dark corners within the story of the glass ceiling is the part that shows the picture of the diversity-issue. The sad reality, according to Scott (2001) is that “the number of women of color among [the] group [of highest-paid corporate officers] remains stagnant according to the 2000 Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners.” (p.30). The survey presents the bleak percentage women of color among top executives, which has not changed from a meager1.3% in the past 2 years! In general, Scott (2001) exclaims, “the percentage of women in corporate top jobs has only increased 3.8% in five years because there is only a small group of women being prepared for top leadership positions.”
So why is the glass ceiling still in existence? And what are the prospects? Redwood (2001), who is Special Assistant to the Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, explains the slow progress toward bringing the glass ceiling down as follows: “[w]e do not yet live in a color blind or gender blind society. Sexism, racism, and xenophobia live side-by-side with unemployment, underemployment and poverty; they feed on one another and perpetuate a cycle of unfulfilled aspirations among women and people of color.” (par. 5) Redwood (2001) continues that “Glass Ceiling research reveals that women of all racial and ethnic groups are most likely to be employed in the service industries and in finance, real estate, wholesale and retail trade.” Redwood affirms nonetheless that there are cracks in the ceiling and that women are moving up the corporate ladder. In Redwood’s findings “progress has been made, but we still have a long way to go” (2001). She states that “[s]urveys show that between 1982 and 1992, the proportion of women holding the title of executive vice president rose from 4 to 9 percent. Those at the senior vice president level rose from 13 to 23 percent.”
So is it an education issue that keeps the glass ceiling firmly standing? Not in Redwood’s opinion. “Equal educational attainment does not guarantee fair compensation. Regardless of credentials and preparedness, the return on investment or income, continues unequal. All women have considerably lower mean incomes compared to their male counterparts, and most minority men earn less than non-Hispanic white men with the same education at the same occupational level. It is this wage discrimination or pay inequity that is an indicator of the existence of glass ceilings.” (2001)
So, could one ask then, “why does the disparity continue? It's not because women and minorities are not prepared. The number of women holding bachelor and post-graduate degrees has steadily increased. And more and more postgraduate degrees are in the field of business management and law - the credentials that are now considered prerequisites for senior management positions. Despite identical education attainment, ambition, and commitment to career, men still progress faster than women.” (Rosewood, 2001)
The most interesting statement from Rosewood’s speech is that “[r]esearch suggests that the underlying cause for the existence of the glass ceiling is the perception of many white males that they as a group are losing - losing competitive advantage, losing control, and losing opportunity as a direct consequence of inclusion of women and minorities”
So what we all should consider and realize is that “[g]lass ceilings in the business world are not an isolated feature of corporate architecture; rather they are held in place by the attitudes of society at large.” And if this is the case—and I have no reason to doubt it—shouldn’t we then have to start teaching attitudinal change to our children--tomorrow’s society--in school?
Baker, B., & Lightle, S. S. (2001). Cracks in the glass ceiling: An analysis of gender equity in the federal government auditing career field. The Journal of Government Financial Management, 50(3), 18-26.
McDonald, C. (2001). Women agents say they are breaking the glass ceiling. National Underwriter, 105(45), 43-44.
Redwood, R. (2001, 16 December 2001). The Glass Ceiling. The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission. Available: http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/glass.html [2002, January, 23].
Scott, M. S. (2001). For women, the glass ceiling persists. Black Enterprise, 32(1), 30.
Wallace, C. E. (2001). Right place, right time, right partners: Emerging opportunities for minorities and the franchising sector. Franchising World, 33(7), 23-24.