Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Galasso: The Glass Ceiling Concept


Victoria Galasso
May 6, 2013

The Glass Ceiling Concept: Women’s Equality in the Workplace

The glass-ceiling concept was an idea that was coined by the Wall Street Journal in 1986. A glass ceiling, defined in simplest terms is an invisible boundary that prevents women from being promoted. In the corporate world, women face challenges to rise up into powerful positions, despite equal amounts of education and qualifications. Women in the professional world have long struggled to become top earners, simply because they are women. The glass-ceiling concept can be described in many ways, all definitions are describing the oppression of women in the work place. Women still make less than men in equal positions of work. For every dollar a man makes, a woman will make .80 cents, on average. “The average earnings of men grow far more quickly than the average earnings of women,” says Weinberg.1

A study was conducted, titled “Research Disputing Conventional Views on Gender” by Morgan and consulted by Weinberger in 1998 to view the differences in women’s wages and salary growth2. Weinberger tested ested the concept of the glass ceiling among women young and old, against men in the same positions. Wages and salary growth were tested in terms of promotions. “One versions of the discrimination hypothesis postulates that a “glass ceiling” blocks the entry of women into the very highest level of the occupational hierarchy.”3 Jennifer Weinberger is an independent scholar affiliated with the Institute of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research at the University of California- Santa Barbara who conducted this research in the 1990s. In Weinberger’s research she explored why there are gender gaps to begin with. Her focus was “to turn attention away from the size of the gender gap in earnings and toward understanding its evolution within each cohort of women over time.” 4 The study she conducted focused on women and men both young and old, with college degrees in the 1990’s. The glass ceiling in this definition means that women have invisible boundaries that prevent them from reaching the highest position or being promoted. Another important question Weinberger asked in her study was if motherhood played a role in creating a glass ceiling.
The variables in Weinberger’s study included sex, age, educational attainment, college major, measures of labor force attachment, parenting status, and indicators of career progress.5 She took into consideration that an occupation like a lawyer would tend to have a greater difference in women to men based on the historically lesser population of women in the field. Within the cohort of lawyers in their thirties during the 1980 census, the salary to gender gap tripled by the 1990 census. Within the cohort who were in their thirties during the 1990 census, the salary to gender gap did not grow at all before the 2000 census.6 This means that the gender gap, or difference in salaries between men and women based on promotions, has not reached a better equilibrium since 1980. In this professional field, the salary-gender gap increased, but did not go back down by the year 2000.
As time passes, conditions under the glass ceiling get worse for women. Women in their thirties are getting married, settling down with a partner and beginning to raise a family which can require them to take time off from working. “Decreasing levels of parenting responsibility seems to contribute to the strong earnings growth among older women.” 7 As women age they were gaining back the recognition they had lost in the time they took off to raise their children. The worst demographic to be is a woman in her thirties in the professional world and the struggle seems to lift after child-bearing years. Which is what the glass ceiling in this example describes, that women lose job gratitude and respect, unfairly simply because they had a personal life.
The numbers of women who have obtained high-ranking positions are only at 7% in the professional population of the United States. Some important factors that play into the formation of the glass ceiling for women workers are a lack of mentoring of women by male superiors, sex stereotyping, and views that associate masculine traits with leader effectiveness8.” To change this a main idea would be to gain insight into how the bosses’ view their female employees when it comes to family-work responsibilities.
The research found in Hoobler, Wayne and Lemmon’s Bosses’ Perceptions of Family-work Conflict and Women’s Promotability: Glass Ceiling Effects shows that “promotions to higher organizational levels were associated with greater masculinity and that having children meant less career success for women but more career success for men.9” Bosses’ perceptions of women were that they needed time to build their families and were less dependable than the men of equal qualifications. They focused their research on the subconscious thought of corporations’ leaders “think leader, think male.” These ideas contributed to stereotypes that women are “less committed,” or “less invested in their career” because of their “child rearing responsibilities.10
Women are discriminated against in various ways no matter what industry, which perpetuates glass ceiling concept. Women can see promotions as goals but they aren’t receiving them in equal numbers, and the men are always on the floor above in the professional world. Multiple research studies have shown that a female employee’s personal life is taken into greater consideration than a male employee’s. Yet when a man’s personal life does enter into work affairs, he is rewarded for his father role. If a man’s wife is about to have a baby “he is actually more likely to receive a promotion11” because the boss knows he’ll need a higher salary; while a pregnant woman would be less likely to receive a promotion. There is a direct relationship between the bosses’ perception of the worker and their promotability, thus providing an example explanation for the glass ceiling.
The glass-ceiling concept also defines why women have been forced into and always associated with pink-collar jobs. Pink-collar jobs are those that have been historically associated with female labor, such as maids, teachers, stewardesses, and sex workers, just to name a few. Since women make less money than men in professional occupations, women are discouraged from going to college, or seeking higher ranking positions in the professional fields. This idea only furthers stereotypes of women in low-wage, pink-collar jobs.
One particular “pink-collar” job, teaching, illustrates another concept that hinders women’s progress in the workplace—the “glass escalator” concept. In the beginning of the 20th century, teachers were underpaid, under qualified and not respected. By the end of the century however it was a higher-paid, higher-status profession12. Men began to teacher as well which only created more inequality for women with the glass escalator concept. This means that men in this field will rise up into high paying, well respected positions at a much quicker rate than women, despite the fact that women have served in the teaching profession longer.
The glass-ceiling concept is defined in several ways because it is a complex idea that is not easily defined. Since it is not easily defined, it cannot be easily solved and inequality continues for women in the workplace. Through promotions, salaries and stereotypes, women are treated unfairly because of their biology, creating inequality in the workplace.



1 Weinberger, In Search of pg.967

2 Catherine J. Weinberger, In Search of the Glass Ceiling: Gender and Earning Growth Among U.S. College Graduates in the 1990s, Industrial and labor Relations Review, Vol. 64 No. 5 (October 2011) by Cornell University, pg. 949

3 Weinberger, In Search of the, pg. 949-950

4 Ibid

5 Weinberger, In Search of the, pg. 952

6 Weinberger, In Search of the, ph. 962

7 Weinberger, In Search of the, pg. 965

8 Ibid

9 Hoobler, Wayne, Lemmon Bosses’ Perceptions pg. 940

10 Hoobler, Wayne, Lemmon Bosses’ Perceptions pg. 941

11 Hoobler, Wayne, Lemmon Bosses’ Perceptions pg. 943

12 Jacobs, Gender Inequality in the Workplace, pg. 383

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