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Glass Ceiling And The Effects On Women

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Autor:  anton  19 July 2011
Tags:  Ceiling,  Effects
Words: 3022   |   Pages: 13
Views: 803


It’s 4:57PM and your superior has just emailed you and a fellow co-worker a project that is needed by 8AM tomorrow morning. You glance at the clock and realize you have two minutes before you must dash out of the office and rush 45 minutes across town to pick your child up from a daycare that closes in 30 minutes. Clearly, there is not nearly enough time to complete the request. You look at the office across from you and see your childless, single counterpart who simply smiles and says “…go ahead. I’ll handle the request”. All the way home you beat yourself up. Pondering how this will look to your superior? Will you look like a slacker or not be considered a “team player”? Or even worse… what potential promotion did you just decrease your chances of getting? You also began to consider the contrary… “What type of parent would I be to leave my child waiting at the daycare or disappoint them by having someone else pick him/her up?” How disappointed would your child be if you didn’t show up to pick him/her up when you promised ice cream this afternoon? If this scenario does not sound familiar to you, then maybe it is because you’re one of the few people that have not been faced with the issues that stem from the “glass ceilings” that still exist today in Corporate America.

The term “glass ceiling” refers to situations where the advancement of a qualified person within the hierarchy of an organization is stopped at a lower level because of some form of discrimination. The metaphor can be simply defined as “an invisible or transparent barrier that keeps an individual from rising above a certain level in corporations”. Although the idea of a glass ceiling is widespread, there has been surprisingly very little research by economists to establish its existence or evaluate the consequences. In many corporations today, being single with or without children versus being married with or without children, leaves women or men who are married or single with huge choices and/or sacrifices to make. In our analysis, we attempt to define the challenges employees are faced with and suggest possible solutions to break through the “glass ceilings”.


It is an undeniable fact; there are physiological differences between men and women. The historical attitudes of males have been reflected in all levels of interaction toward the treatment of women including limiting women’s career choices, their intellectual maturity and credibility and their effectiveness as predominant contributors to the advancement of society. The female role has changed slowly but not totally. It has progressed from the little woman keeping hearth and home and requiring protection from the big strong husband and breadwinner, to being a contributing member of modern society.

There has been a significant rise in the female labor force, from fifteen percent in 1983 to forty five percent in 2007. Most women today still work in lower paying jobs and skill groups such as office and administrative support that only require a High School Diploma. Women, rather than men, are usually the ones that limit their career growth by reducing their work hours or dropping out of the work force altogether. They settle for lower pay and limited career advancement so they can attempt to successfully integrate their family and job, especially if their spouse has a better opportunity for career growth. For women who choose a professional career (requiring a college degree), there is about a fifty/fifty split of female to male professionals (lawyers, doctors, managers and post secondary educators). If the professional woman is married and has children, she typically will earn less than her male counterpart, but this pay gap is related to working fewer hours per year due to family obligations. Single women, not on the parent track, with a college degree have incomes slightly higher than males with comparable experience and a High School education.

Research has shown that women are not as efficient as men in negotiating promotions, pay increases and increased work benefits (Jacobson 18-21). Career outcomes require people to be proactive, take initiative and ask for a pay increase and increased work benefits. Men are more likely to be more aggressive and create their own opportunities to advance. “Social mores and male attitudes make an effective barrier to women rising above certain points; this tendency brings to mind a glass ceiling” (Toussaint 1).

To illustrate how Glass Ceilings are created, consider the following: Circa 1992 – Woman, mid thirties, recent graduate from prestigious Business school with a BS in Accounting, attends a mandatory job fair and interviews with a university placement counselor. This recent graduate has an impressive resume, which lists her outstanding academic achievements. It is clear to the interviewer the graduate’s ability to multi-task while raising a family, working part-time and managing classes. Most of the attendees at the job fair are male, mid-twenties, aggressive and with similar academic achievements. The advice from the placement counselor was honest and straightforward, so he thought. The counselor stated to the graduate, “Thirty something married women with families will rarely progress as a manager in a large company. Most women in this category are placed in small to mid size companies as a Staff Accountant, Full Charge Bookkeeper or possibly mid-level management in a Human Resources Department with limited advancement.”

That statement could have been viewed as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The graduate interviewed with numerous large companies in the Accounting or Finance departments, none of which turned into an offer. The graduate was finally offered a job with a small, but growing innovative pharmaceutical promotions company. The company’s workforce was predominantly male and fresh out of college. The position was Assistant to the Controller with full Accounting duties through Financial Statements. What a perfect fit! However, the recent graduate would soon realize that there were many duties, “woman duties” that were left out of the job description she received. The job description should have also read, “Candidate must have aprons and rubber gloves to match every suit.” In addition to the accounting duties, the graduate was to clean the kitchen and refrigerator, order office supplies, greet clients with refreshments while settling them in the conference room, and daily mail delivery to all employees. Trips to the bank and picking up lunches came as an added bonus, “this was a chance to get out of the office for awhile” according to the Controller.


After asking several fellow students and employees who they thought worked the most hours from the single versus married category almost every person assumed single women in need of more money. Oddly enough this is actually the opposite of what appears to be a common misconception. Single men actually work the fewest hours out of the following categories: married men, married women, single men, and single women . According to French Sociologist Francois de Singly the single male is, “a kind of social misfit who earns half as much as married men and less than single women. In the U.S. the single man is more likely than a married man to commit suicide, become a criminal, (and) be institutionalized (“A Rousing Oui for Married Men,” 2).” Ethically speaking, Singly takes a rather harsh approach further categorizing and insinuating that the single males lack of hours invested in his career is due to a stereotype of being unwanted on the basis of his personal life thus carrying over into his public life. However, there are other men who have written that single men work less hours because they choose to work less while investing more in their personal lives. According to columnist Dr. Al Lee who writes a forum on Payscale.com, “Having a fulltime “life coach” (a wife) limits your partying…and would raise anyone’s productivity and income…it is my single male colleagues who take off 6 months or a year to travel around the world or bike across the country, not the married ones (Salary Comparison: Married vs. Unmarried,” 2).” Dr. Lee’s viewpoint translates into single men working fewer hours than single and married women because they have fewer responsibilities; and perhaps even a lack of responsibility. One must question if single men work less as the result of a stereotype that causes or allows them to work less hours, or have single men created their own label; one in which they have no family to provide for and are destined to invest more time in their own leisurely hobbies? This latter assumption can be argued as being harsh and regressive towards the categories of individuals that comprise the group entitled the single male; perhaps even offensive. As for divorced men similarly to single mothers, may be fighting similar battles of child care costs and other time consuming events that are childcare oriented accounting for much of their time spent outside of the office.

Who works the most hours? Why? When asking fellow students and coworkers who they thought worked the fewest hours most people said married women. According to an article by writers English and Hegewisch of The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the response that married women worked the fewest hours held some truth. While married women worked more hours than single men, among basic categories listed previously (single men, single women, married men, married women) married women were amongst the demographic crowd of people who over all worked less hours . The article states, Over the 15 years (of a study), the more likely a woman is to have dependent children and be married, more likely she is to be a low earner and have fewer hours in the labor market, however “the opposite holds for men” (“Still A Man’s Labor Market: The Long-Term Earnings Gap,” 1).” So what contributes to the adverse relationship held between married men and married women in relation to the hours they will work once their single status is obsolete? According to the majority of research, stereotypes still portray a married man as a breadwinner who must provide for his family while the married woman is stereotyped as having a provider and as Singly states, “dedicating her life to her husband’s (“A Rousing Oui For Married Men”, 2)”

The married woman’s counterpart the single woman is second when compared to married men as the demographic that works the most hours . Author Richard Niolin wrote The Case for Marriage which states, they (single women) are unlikely to advance in their careers to the extent of single men; despite their extra invested hours, the single women who is not still works more hours than married women and single men . If the single woman is investing more time in her career, and given the chance to work longer hours one must ask why married women more often are expected to work less hours? The overlaying thought could be that the single woman has no one to take care of at home, her domestic work is limited only to her own possessions, space and standards, and a company might feel less guilty in thinking that the single woman is not being deprived of her household duties as opposed to if she were wed.

After careful research and consideration three factors limit the hours worked by people in regards to their marital or single status; stereotypes, child care costs/ accommodations, and domestic housework (4). As a reader you are probably wondering why domestic house work would limit a person’s career work hours; and it is a good question. According to an article by SU Scholars, “having a husband creates an extra seven hours a week of housework for women … (and) saves men from about an hour of housework a week (“An Inefficiency of Marriage,” 1).” The statistic proves that married women are accepting and exemplifying their own stereotype of domestic responsibilities preceding the importance of their careers.

Lastly, stereotypes are the most harmful and burdensome issue holding back those who want to work more hours, and pushing forward those that want to or need to work less hours. Until people who are stereotyped as needing to work fewer hours are de-categorized, it is up to the individual to express their career objectives. Because married men tend to take on more as they leave their single life behind they could serve as a valuable asset in reducing stereotypes by discussing the need to work fewer hours, or their need to take a legally provided family leave when necessary. The Equal Opportunity Act is still in place, though many have forgotten about their rights.


Compensation is money/wages one receives for performing a service or the act of being compensated for a service. However, the wage gap separates the men from the women, men from men, or women from women when referring to compensation in the Workplace. The number one question in every employees mind is, “Why do men earn more money than their woman counterparts?” Well, is it because the men has a wife and two children whereas the woman is possibly single and childless or even a single parent. Studies report that women typically earn 76.6% of a man’s salaries. Married men are viewed as being stable and responsible since they are married which employers’ views as an asset to the organization. Marriage also causes men to become more productive and focused on their jobs. According to the Opt Out or Pushed Out article, survey results show that 93% of highly qualified educated women expect to return to work after childbirth. However, 74% actually do return and 40% of the 74% return to full-time, mainstream jobs.

In addition to the traditional glass ceiling, some in the gay community may be experiencing the “pink ceiling.” According Matt Schafer in the article Breaking the pink ceiling, The pink ceiling refers to the limit gay men and lesbians reach in the workplace and earning significantly less money than married men in the same roles. According to the 2000 census bureau numbers within the article, Breaking the pink ceiling, men who live with men make 16% less than married men, while men who lived with a female partner made about 13% less than married men.

“Is the wage gap between men and women, men and men, or women and women ethical?” No! Women or men should be held at the same standards across the board regardless of their sexual orientation. In today’s society, some men are taking a back seat to the woman as the breadwinner. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits employers from paying women less than men for performing the same job. Employers should always conduct wage comparison and monitor internal equity to protect themselves from any legal actions and to ensure all employees are being compensated accordingly. Women’s earnings have increased over the years but on the average they earn twenty five percent less than their male counterparts. Even within female dominated occupations men are disproportionately the higher wage earners.


Why should career opportunities available to a woman be less than those available to a man, especially when both have the same quality of education, same degree from the same university and similar skills? Companies need to make major changes when writing personnel policies in order to provide women the opportunity to integrate their leadership ability with their personal lives. Companies should change selection and recruitment policies that do not favor men, reward long hours, but rather results. Women should be offered sufficient maternity leave, salaries equivalent to men performing the same job, adequate childcare arrangements, and flextime as well as telecommunications options. If men were also granted maternity leaves as a rule not an exception, than women would not have to take time away from their jobs and would have the probability of corporate advancement.

What can an individual do to assure themselves they will not be affected by the wage gap? Before an individual accepts a position conduct salary comparison reports for the desired position (www.salary.com). Preparing a salary analysis can assure the new incumbent of equitable pay. However, if the situation warrants investigation contact the organization’s Employee Relations Department. The Employee Relations Department is required to complete the necessary investigation according to the Equal Employee Opportunity Commission (EEOC), to verify no violations or illegal activity has taken place on the organization’s behalf.

After reading the article titled, “Does the Oval Office have a glass ceiling? By Elizabeth Robinson, a survey was conducted by Newsweek to gather the viewpoint of Americans in regards to female candidate for the presidential campaign. The poll showed that 80% of the respondents said they would vote for a qualified woman candidate, however when asked if American was ready to elect a female president only 55% said yes. When you think of the presidential campaign, one would not associate the words glass ceiling with this topic. However, after researching the topic of glass ceilings the understanding is that glass ceiling can exist in every aspect of the business world.


Kingsley Browne. "Glass Ceiling, Biological Floor." Darwin@LSE. 2 Oct. 1998. 21 Apr. 2008


R. Caffarello, C. Clark, and P. Ingram. "Life At the Glass Ceiling: Women in Mid-Level Management Positions." International Journal of Urban Labour & Leisure. 2 Mar. 2007. 22 Apr. 2008


Joyce P. Jacobsen. "Choices Changes." Regional Review Q1 (2005): 17-31. 21 Apr. 2008 www.bos.frb.org/economic/nerr/rr2005/q1/section2a.pdf

Johanne Toussaint. "The Glass Ceiling." . 12 Apr. 1993. www.feminism.eserver.org.

22 Apr. 2008


Dr. Al Lee PhD. “Salary Comparison: Married vs. Unmarried.” Ask Dr. Salary. 30 May 2007. C. 2000-2008. http://blogs.payscale.com/ask_dr_salary/2007/05/salary_comparis.html

SCSU Scholars. “An Inefficiency of Marriage?” 8 Apr. 2008.


Time in Partnership with CNN. “A Rousing Oui for Married Men.” 31 May 1982.

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