Why we still need to talk about the glass ceiling

Op-eds Opinions

OPI_Glass Ceiling_Amy Smith_webWomen represent almost half of the labour force; however, most of them still earn far lower salaries on average than men and are less likely to work in leadership positions. This phenomenon is due to the “glass ceiling,” a metaphor that appeared and was developed in the U.S. during the 1970s, describing situations where qualified individuals (in this case women, but it can also be applied to racial or ethnic minorities) are prevented from advancing to higher-level jobs by barriers like stereotypes and other social biases.

The glass ceiling effect is prevalent in the workplace for women; however, people may state that nowadays the glass ceiling does not exist. They point out that women outpace men by earning more prestige and getting far higher salaries in certain jobs, such as teachers and nurses. But these jobs are limited and conform to antiquated, stereotypical ideals. Only a small percentage of women occupy leadership positions. Women currently make up 47 per cent of the overall labour force, and yet, depending on the source, they represent somewhere between 6–16 per cent of the executive positions. Secondly, the bulk of women are bound in ordinary and supportive jobs. Thirdly, a large number of companies statistically promote males rather than females. Take small enterprises for example: these companies that are in a growth stage tend to put skilled men, who are already scarce, into senior positions due to their perceived higher long-term reliability in poor economic circumstances.

For the sake of economic benefits, companies generally avoid the extra birth insurance fees and related opportunity costs brought by maternity leave for women. That’s one of the reasons why companies prefer to hire males rather than females. The maternity leave time has decreased in recent years, which makes it harder for women to spare more time on child care. Some women choose to give up their jobs; some may encounter social pressures where they are criticized as irresponsible when they leave their children and family affairs aside in pursuit of greater success in their careers. Besides that, women are discriminated against by male counterparts at the workplace. For example, one of the biggest motivators that push women to work is to earn a salary, which means a kind of liberation from family and marriage; for men, it is seen as natural behaviour to achieve high positions; some consider it irresponsible for women to neglect family life to purse wealth.

Although the number of women working in business has increased, the percentage of women in the workplace decreases proportionately with an increase in seniority of the positions. Besides, women encounter the difficulty of balancing work with family responsibilities. What’s more, women unfortunately often find themselves discriminated against by men at work. These impede women from career advancements, gender equality, and social respect. Women need to work hard to achieve leadership roles, but organizations and men also share responsibility for shattering the glass ceiling.