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The Glass Ceiling Issue for Women in the Workplace

Updated on August 30, 2013
stephhicks68 profile image

Stephanie has been a lawyer since 1994 and knows her way around a professional office environment.

Is There a Glass Ceiling at Your Workplace?

The phrase "glass ceiling " was coined sometime in the 1980s, but unfortunately, women professionals still experience its effects today.

Generally, speaking, the term means a limit beyond which a woman cannot advance any further in her career, while a similarly situated man, may continue on. The ceiling is said to be "glass" because the failure to advance the woman is not based on any particular written policy. Often, it is the result of ingrained bias or perceptions of women's roles in raising families (i.e., they cannot successfully be a manager and a mother).

There are many reasons that a ceiling may exist in businesses in the 21st century, including family demands, motherhood, a desire for better "work-life" balance, and other caregiving roles (i.e., aging parents). At times, the woman employee actually imposes the glass ceiling over her own head, without knowing it! This may occur by the failure to take on challenging projects at the same rate as her male colleagues, or to work longer hours and/or weekends. Unfortunately, motherhood can interfere with the race for the best clients, particularly if the new accounts require extensive travel and time away from home.

Is there a glass ceiling preventing advancement for women in employment?
Is there a glass ceiling preventing advancement for women in employment?

Potential Signs of a Glass Ceiling at Your Workplace

  • Consistently poor work assignments
  • Secretarial-type requests (if you are not a secretary)
  • Pass over for a bonus, when you have earned one
  • Very slight (if any) pay increases
  • Comments on childcare responsibilities
  • Comments on elder care responsibilities
  • Comments that have anything to do with your being a woman
  • Pass over for invites to client meetings or gatherings
  • Smaller, less well-positioned office than male colleagues
  • Pass over for promotion

What Can a Woman Do if a Glass Ceiling Exists?

If you feel like you are being discriminated against, speak up! First, bring it to the attention of your human resources manager, if your firm has one. You need to be specific about your complaints and not just say that you feel like you are being treated differently. It helps to have a log of dates, statements made, assignments given (or not), etc. If you have been with your company for 3 years and have only received a $3,000 raise overall, this is relevant information. The better you lay out your facts, the more attention your case will get.

In many cases, your company will make internal adjustments so that any disparate treatment between you and male counterparts will cease. Otherwise, they will explain the reasons for the differences in pay or assignments. You can then decide whether to stay, pursue a new job or formal legal action.

Fight for your rights! If you sit back and let it happen to you, you are not only doing yourself a disservice, but all other women in your company and your department.

What is the future for girls seeking employment?
What is the future for girls seeking employment?

There is Still a Cultural Problem

Even if a woman switches jobs and goes to work at a new firm, or in a new business, a gap in pay between men and women persists. Men still make more than women for the same jobs. On average, women make 75 cents on the dollar as men. The gap had been closing for years, but recently has stalled, as described in a recent New York Times article.

Why? Among the theories offered is that women just aren't as money-driven as men are. Others include the fact that women have babies, and that makes them less valuable. (I'm still not getting that one; men are fathers, too). Amazingly, women tend to graduate from college with higher grade-point averages and more honors than men. Yet, years later, they are the ones making less money.

Sure, there are exceptions to the stories. A number of highly successful women are, in fact, playing in the big boy leagues. But why are they the exceptions? Why has it taken over 200 years for a viable woman presidential candidate to come forward? Is male chauvinism really that big a factor, or are we women doing it to ourselves? I pose these questions because I don't have the answers. I think it varies to some degree from firm to firm, and region to region. But I also think that there is a great deal of cultural bias at play.

Obviously, more education needs to take place to emphasize that all women do not have babies and, of those that do, many can do just as fine a job balancing budgets and hectic schedules. What do you think about this situation? Share in the comments below!

Are You Under a Glass Ceiling?

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Katie Couric Under a Glass Ceiling?

© 2008 Stephanie Hicks


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    • linjingjing profile image


      10 years ago

      Glass Ceiling

      Writing good

    • PenmanZee profile image


      11 years ago

      Good stuff. I'm not a woman but I understand because of who I am.

    • crazycat profile image


      11 years ago from Philippines

      Great hub. Good thing we are in these era where a lot of women could voice out and are more ambitious.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      11 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Super Hub Steph. It's funny I haven't heard that expression for quite a few years...No limitations has been my motto forever.

      Great HUB regards Zsuzsy


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