The Sky’s the Limit, Unless You are a Woman

According to the Center for American Progress, “Although they hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, American women lag substantially behind men…in a broad range of fields, their presence in top leadership positions remains stuck at a mere 10 to 20 percent,” (Warner and Corley). The professional workplace scene is heavily dominated by male opinion and leadership, even if women make up half of those jobs. The glass ceiling is the term used to describe to invisible barriers women and minorities must encounter within a profession, preventing the advancement to higher positions. These physical and emotional obstacles are the culmination of ignorant, even misogynistic behaviors, an unfair disadvantage to those affected by it. Specifically, the glass ceiling is detrimental to women within the workforce by revealing the corrupt practice of awarding jobs due to gender rather than merit, which hinders a woman’s ability to rise to top career positions and venture outside of roles of domesticity, ultimately lowering the standards of job quality, leading to socio-economic stagnation.

The glass ceiling exposes the common practice of marginalizing women in the workforce, and ignoring their performance by passing them over in favor of their male counterparts. In “100 Women: ‘Why I invented the glass ceiling phrase,’” Marilyn Loden, the creator of the term the glass ceiling, announces that this injustice is as common place today as it was when she first used it 40 years ago. She declares, “the metaphor continues to symbolise an enduring barrier to gender equality – one that has been normalized in many organizations where there is now a sense of complacency about the lack of women at the top,” (Loden). American industries continue to forget that women make up approximately half of the employees, disproportionate to their representation at the top. It is a comfortable feeling for males in leadership roles to remain in power, but this has destroyed females’ voices. A woman’s skills, no matter how responsible or talented she may be, are not valuable enough for the company to care for her say in company matters, possibly harming the business by depriving it of more capable employees. The International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences builds upon this idea of the glass ceiling being detrimental to women by explaining the specifics of its impact. In “Glass Ceiling”, the Encyclopedia describes the possible impacts the glass ceiling has on women, listing that “the existence of the glass ceiling can result in… 1. Title inflation…2. Job segregation by sex…3. Career changes,” (“Glass Ceiling”). The Encyclopedia implies that women are being cheated out of receiving credit and rewards for their job, by continually being passed over for title promotions in favor of men. This in turn results in “Title inflation,” a remark meant to point out the flaw in awarding titles to men not worthy of the position instead of women who are. As less competent people earn harder, more influential positions, economic inefficiency increases. Jobs lose meaning, companies lack leadership, and the whole system goes down. By denying women the opportunity to receives titles or promotions, society puts itself in economic jeopardy by continuing the habit of workplace corruption.

This practice of awarding positions based on gender leaves women subjected to stereotypical domestic roles, and the glass ceiling discourages them from invalidating this standard within the workplace. In “Asian Women Fight to Crack through Silicon Valley Ceiling,” Guynn exemplifies this by portraying the struggle Asian American women must face working in Silicon valley, dealing with both gender and racial typecasting. She describes, “When pitching to investors, Asian female entrepreneurs said they’re told they speak too softly of they should bring on a male co-founder…they get propositioned all the time,” (Guynn). Society expects a female to act demure, soft, and even emotional. This article refers to women working in Silicon Valley, the most influential tech-hub of the world; any person working here must have skills to stand their ground in such cutthroat environment. Unfortunately, many men do not believe women are capable of heading their own companies or reasoning logically. This false view of women allows gender stereotypes to mask their true accomplishments, and encourages women to continue to follow a man’s leadership. Moazzam extends this idea of gender stereotypes resulting in the glass ceiling by inferring that men are apprehensive to trust women. In “The glass ceiling effect: What’s holding women back?” she recalls the experiences of Pakistani women trying to elevate their positions and establish a name for themselves in the corporate world. However, the biggest obstacle was the belief that “women are much more risk-averse than men when in reality, business is often all about taking risks. A female employee’s caution…can be just what keeps her from a more lucrative job,” (Moazzam). In the aggressive world of business, men assume that a woman is too weak to survive. The stereotype of a domesticated woman feeds into workplace ideals, confining women both inside and outside the house. The expectations of society will never change unless a female proves them wrong, but how can they when no opportunities are given to prove their competence? Until then, the world stays stuck in limbo, with no efforts to allow individuals to disprove social standards.

By continuing to subject women to domesticated roles, the glass ceiling helps perpetuate cultural views on gender, a cycle that causes society to remain stagnant in its socio-economic progress. In “Glass Ceiling” the International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences does not just offer a definition of the glass ceiling and its impacts, but also proposes that it exists simply because men are afraid to trust women. The Encyclopedia states, “when there is imperfect information on the potential of a candidate, employers or managers generally prefer to hire or promote someone who looks and thinks like them…this puts women at a competitive disadvantage,” (“Glass Ceiling”). Because most decisions are “still made by men” (“Glass Ceiling”), women are put on the outs. Because men and women have been segregated in the workforce for so long, men have no idea what women are truly capable of, and therefore, avoid hiring them or bestowing important tasks upon them. The idea that the glass ceiling stems from gender segregation is built upon by the persistence of archaic cultural values. In “100 Women: ‘Why I invented the glass ceiling phrase,’” Marilyn Loden reveals that women are unable to advance in the workforce, not due to personal reasons, but due to society’s values. She declares, “True, women did seem unable to climb the career ladder…but I argued that the ‘invisible glass ceiling’ – the barriers to advancement that were cultural not personal – was doing the bulk of the damage,” (Loden). Men are not born to hate and control women; the glass ceiling is more than just mere pettiness in the office. The glass ceiling prevents women from reaching their full potential due to society’s restrictions on them. Instead of holding onto these outdated attitudes on gender segregation, companies must continue to evolve should they attempt to keep up with the times. Profit and innovation are on the line when one sacrifices raw talent for archaic values.

The glass ceiling is the culmination of stereotypes and discrimination that prevent women from succeeding within the career system, brought upon by the belief that women must stay within the sphere of domesticity. This is damaging to a woman’s ambitions, as corrupt systems prevent her from moving up the ladder, favoring male co-workers who are not always as deserving instead. However, increasing of opportunities for women allow for more observable positional mobility. One may even argue that the glass ceiling is irrelevant to society now: there are women who have broken through and currently head some of the most successful companies. Mary T. Barra, CEO of General Motors, is “the first woman to serve as CEO of a major automaker,” (Eisenstein). Despite her achievements, Barra once began working at General Motors as a factory worker. She is just one of 32 female CEO’s recognized on Fortune 500’s List for 2017. But the percentage of female CEO’s is still in the single digits. The glass ceiling is is hard to break because it consists of discriminatory behaviors that are invisible to all who do not encounter it. Our economy remains stagnant due to the corruption of hiring based on gender rather than merit. There is no growth in a company if less able people are running the show. So, the glass ceiling is not just detrimental to women in the workplace, but to society as a whole. Society must overcome the vicious cycle of restricting women to spheres of domesticity by offering women opportunities to prove their hand at leadership and supporting the introduction of more women into management roles. Only then may the glass ceiling shatter, bringing socio-economic prosperity to everyone.

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