The glass ceiling is a metaphor for artificial barriers that hinder women and another minority group of people from ascending to the senior and corporate positions in management. This term was first introduced in the 1980s to increase awareness of the invisible factors which prevented women from progressing in their careers (Abdelghani & Hassanien, 2020). One of the resolutions made to encourage women to advance to leadership positions was the enactment of the United States of America Congress Act. Despite many efforts to eliminate obstacles to women’s success, females still encounter a range of factors in the workplace that inhibit their success and advancement.
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Congress passed the Glass Ceiling Act to create a framework to promote gender equality and increase the representation of women in management compared to their male counterparts. Although some of the impediments which women experience at workplaces are created and perpetuated by men, some scholars argue that this is far from the truth (Akehurst et al., 2012). In some circumstances, lack of zeal and urge to engage men in the competitive field is the cause of these atrocities. The range of reasons for the persistent underrepresentation of women in leadership positions includes cultural barriers, lack of education, and redundant norms and, as well as lack of constitutional laws to address the issue (Alqahtani, 2019; Cadaret et al., 2017). These factors disadvantage women in the workplace by restricting them from rising beyond a certain level in a hierarchy.
One major restriction to women’s career advancement is limited work experience. Securing any job opportunity requires potential candidates to exhibit relevant employability skills. Some of the qualifications include time management, the ability to withstand pressure, and, most importantly, job experience. Corporate managers and senior executive members of an organization are required to have relevant experience in running the business. Kroll and Ziegler (2016), based on their extensive research on gender and racial discrimination in employment, argue that women throughout the world lack relevant experience for most managerial positions compared to men. Kroll and Ziegler (2016) explain that female candidates are often treated unfavorably in all employment processes ranging from recruitment and selection to job classification and compensation. Despite the fact that women can perform with the same level of skill and success as their male peers, they often fail in interviews because many managerial job openings demand vast experience in a similar position. Abdelghani and Hassanien (2020) agree that this issue put male candidates at an advantage during interviews when employment opportunities arise. Therefore, gaining relevant job experience could help women to ascend to leadership.
Furthermore, women lack access to education opportunities compared to their male peers. Some cultures discriminate girls by failing to invest in women’s education and promote the development of their life skills (Islam & Jantan, 2017). Many girls around the world are denied equal access to learning opportunities. For instance, some families and cultures favor boys when investing in their children’s education. Besides, girls and young women face many other barriers to education including the burden of stigma unequal gender norms, poverty, negative cultural practices, and violence. Corporate leadership positions are characterized with complex demand and challenges and, thus, it requires well-qualified personnel. Cadaret et al. (2017) explain that low academic achievement may deny female candidates job opportunities. This trend is particularly evidenced by the relatively low number of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines. In their journal article, Howe-Walsh and Turnbull (2016) identify that women remain disproportionately underrepresented in the STEM fields, both in education and practice, compared to men. In addition, a set of many other factors (such as poverty, political instability, and insecurity) also hinder women from pursuing education (Islam & Jantan, 2017). This issue illuminates the need to enhance women’s access to education to increase their representation in managerial positions as well as the general labor market.
Moreover, traditional beliefs about the role of men and women in the family and society are major contributors to the few numbers of women in managerial level jobs. Historically, men were considered the sole breadwinners of the family, relegating women to childcare and other domestic chores (Abdelghani & Hassanien, 2020). In communities where such attitudes exist, women struggle to get employment and a majority choose to remain at home to take care of young ones (Abdelghani & Hassanien, 2020). Confining them to less prestigious responsibilities such as child-rearing worsens their endeavor of becoming leaders. They spend a lot of their time performing attending to their kids and doing domestic chores (Alqahtani, 2019). While mothers are taking a larger share of the child care burden, their male counterparts are proceeding with their academics and improving on their profile. These expectations explain why men have more job experience than women.
Additionally, misconceptions and prejudice toward this gender contribute to it’s the disparity in leadership. Women are often stereotyped to be less intelligent and make decisions based on emotions rather than facts (Cadaret et al., 2017). Such unfair treatment and misunderstanding explain why they remain the minority in corporate leadership (Alqahtani, 2019). Those from countries which still embrace these traditions gender role beliefs and attitudes are often discouraged from attaining higher education and holding competitive positions in organizations (Islam & Jantan, 2017). The gender gap in executive positions has been attributed to male chauvinism – the tendency of men to believe that a woman can manage in any way – leads to a few female managers in the corporate industry (Howe-Walsh & Turnbull, 2016). In some cases more experienced and well qualified women fail to secure a new job due to misconceptions about their ability. The same positions they applied for are filled by male candidate who does not match their profiles. Even those who have received outstanding reviews and even awards for their exemplary performance on their job lose promotions in favor of less qualified men. This problem is compounded by the fact that most business enterprises are owned and managed by men (Abdelghani & Hassanien, 2020). The male dominance accounts for the many barriers women encounter as they strive to progress to positions of power and influence. Therefore, discouraging these misconceptions can help eliminate some of the misfortunes women encounter in the workplace.
In conclusion, enacting laws aimed to safeguard the interests of women and enhance their access to education opportunities can offer great assistance in addressing their underrepresentation in leadership. Some women have managed to break the glass ceiling and make outstanding achievement in many organizations. These pioneers have offered a good platform in which the interest of many others can be addressed worldwide. They also serve as role models for girls and young women who wish to overcome stereotypes and the status quo and engage with men in fighting for leadership positions. There is a need to understand that most of the barriers progressing to executive leadership and cooperate positions are artificial and temporary, and it requires a combination of hard work and effort to break the glass ceiling. These initiatives may support existing affirmative actions to bridge the gap that exists in leadership between women and men.
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Howe-Walsh, L., & Turnbull, S. (2016). Barriers to women leaders in academia: tales from science and technology. Studies in Higher Education, 41(3), 415-428.
Alqahtani, T. H. (2019). Barriers to women’s leadership. Granite Journal: A Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Journal, 3(2), 34–41.
Cadaret, M. C., Hartung, P. J., Subich, L. M., & Weigold, I. K. (2017). Stereotype threat as a barrier to women entering engineering careers. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 99, 40–51.
Islam, M. A., & Jantan, A. H. (2017). The glass ceiling: Career barriers for female employees in the ready made garments (RMG) industry of Bangladesh. Academy of Strategic Management Journal, 16(3).
Kroll, E., & Ziegler, M. (2016). Discrimination due to Ethnicity and Gender: How susceptible are video‐based job interviews?. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 24(2), 161-171.