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In economics, the glass ceiling is "the unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements." Initially, the metaphor applied to barriers in the careers of women but was quickly extended to refer to obstacles hindering the advancement of minority men, as well as women.
David Cotter et al. defined four distinctive characteristics that must be met to conclude that a glass ceiling exists. A glass ceiling inequality represents:
Cotter and his colleagues found that glass ceilings are a distinctively gender phenomenon. Both white and African-American women face a glass ceiling in the course of their careers. In contrast, the researchers did not find evidence of a glass ceiling for African-American men.
The glass ceiling metaphor has often been used to describe invisible barriers ("glass") through which women can see elite positions but cannot reach them ("ceiling"). These barriers prevent large numbers of women and ethnic minorities from obtaining and securing the most powerful, prestigious, and highest-grossing jobs in the workforce. Moreover, this barrier can make many women feel as they are not worthy enough to have these high-ranking positions, but also they feel as if their bosses do not take them seriously or actually see them as potential candidates.
The glass ceiling continues to exist although there are no explicit obstacles keeping women and minorities from acquiring advanced job positions – there are no advertisements that specifically say "no minorities hired at this establishment", nor are there any formal orders that say "minorities are not qualified" (equal employment opportunity laws forbid this kind of discrimination) – but they do lie beneath the surface. When a company exercises this type of discrimination they typically look for the most plausible explanation they can find to justify their decision. Most often this is done by citing qualities that are highly subjective or by retrospectively emphasizing/de-emphasizing specific criteria that gives the chosen candidate the edge. Mainly this invisible barrier seems to exist in more of the developing countries, in whose businesses this effect is highly "visible".
There are many different impediments placed upon women that makes it difficult for them to attain a higher work status. With these very negative effects on women and their self-esteem, the glass ceiling has created an even larger problem than just in the work place. Most see the glass ceiling as only being in the work place, which is where it originally was intended for, it has spread to encompass the household and others as well. The barrier within the household has been seen as the difficulty a woman has of getting out of the household and accumulating a job. Not all women feel as though they are being suppressed in the household and many women choose to be in the household in which case the glass ceiling does not apply to them. The term only applies to those women that wish to be out in the work field but are unable to be. Because the glass ceiling also limits the opportunities of women in developing countries, the term has broadened and also become an issue around the world.
Sexual discrimination in employment was outlawed in the United States through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the hopes of allowing women to rise in the working world once proper experience has been achieved. Though sometimes unspoken of, gender discrimination still occurs in the workforce. It has been shown that even if a woman has received the proper education and credentials, they are often not considered for the same job as a male with either equal or less credentials . This has created a greater gap in the income wage gap. Studies have shown that women without high school diplomas, on average, have an effective income less than that of men with comparable education levels and years of work experience.
The term glass ceiling has been thought to have first been used to refer to invisible barriers that impede the career advancement of women in the American workforce in an article by Carol Hymowitz and Timothy Schellhardt in the March 24, 1986 edition of the Wall Street Journal. However, the term was used prior to that; for instance, it was utilized in a March 1984 Adweek article by Gay Bryant. The term glass ceiling was used prior to the 1984 article by two women at Hewlett-Packard in 1979, Katherine Lawrence and Marianne Schreiber, to describe how while on the surface there seemed to be a clear path of promotion, in actuality women seemed to hit a point which they seemed unable to progress beyond. Upon becoming CEO and chairwoman of the board of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina proclaimed that there was no glass ceiling. After her term at HP, she called her earlier statement a "[d]umb thing to say."
The term was used by the U.S. Department of Labor in 1991 in response to a study of nine Fortune 500 companies. The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission study confirmed that women and minorities encountered considerable glass ceiling barriers in their careers; these barriers were experienced earlier in their professions than previously thought.
In 1972, the first organization that examined the position of women in economics, the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP), was created. This committee monitored the progress of women in professional positions and engaged in activities that would help to further this process. Organizations such as this one have helped focus more academic attention to the glass ceiling, helping raise awareness of this issue.
Throughout history women have become aware of the strains being put on them and have begun to fight it. An example of this would be Hillary Clinton's run for presidency, which is often seen as the highest glass ceiling in America. While many women have already broken these barriers and have successfully become CEO of companies, putting a woman in the White House remains the ultimate challenge.
A 2011 government report, "Women in the Federal Government: Ambitions and Achievements," followed up a previous 1992 report that examined this subject. The 2011 report's findings include: 1) Women have made considerable gains since 1992, when they represented just 35% of the professional, middle-tier federal workforce. Females "now hold approximately 44 percent of the positions in both professional and administrative occupations, which constitute the pipeline for positions at the highest grade and pay levels, including the Senior Executive Service"; 2) Despite these gains, women still only account for roughly 30% of the Senior Executive Service. Part of this might be due to lower willingness to relocate among female employees and the fact that "approximately 72 percent of positions in the career Senior Executive Service are located in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area"; 3) Women remain less likely to hold higher-paid positions: "While women are a majority of employees in professional and administrative occupations that have a median salary between $70,000 and $79,999, they remain a distinct minority in occupations with a median salary of $90,000 or above."
The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission of the United States Department of Labor identified two major societal barriers that cause and reinforce a glass ceiling. One societal barrier is with reference to the quantity barrier and the other is with reference to the difference barrier..
The following business-based barriers were identified:
The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission suggest that the underlying cause of the glass ceiling is the perception of many white males that as a group they are losing control of their advancement opportunities.
The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission pinpointed three governmental barriers to the elimination of the glass ceiling. They are:
The gender pay gap is the difference between male and female earnings. In 2008 the OECD found that the median earnings of female full-time workers were 17% lower than the earnings of their male counterparts and that "30% of the variation in gender wage gaps across OECD countries can be explained by discriminatory practices in the labour market." The European Commission found that women's hourly earnings were 17.5% lower on average in the 27 EU Member States in 2008. The female-to-male earnings ratio was 0.77 in the United States in 2009.
In 2006 economists Wiji Arulampalam, Alison L. Booth, and Mark L. Bryan analyzed gender pay gaps across the wage distribution in eleven European countries. They controlled for the effects of individual characteristics at different points of the distribution and calculated the part of the gap attributable to differing returns between men and women (i.e., pay discrimination). The economists found that the gender pay gaps typically widened toward the top of the wage distribution (the "glass ceiling" effect), and in exceptional cases it also widened at the bottom (the "sticky floor" effect).
A study by John McDowell, Larry Singell and James Ziliak investigated faculty promotion on the economics profession and found that, controlling for quality of Ph.D. training, publishing productivity, major field of specialization, current placement in a distinguished department, age and post-Ph.D. experience, female economists were still significantly less likely to be promoted from assistant to associate and from associate to full professor. The results suggest the presence of a glass ceiling.
In 2009, David R. Hekman et al. found that white men receive significantly higher customer satisfaction scores than equally well-performing women and minority employees. Customers who viewed videos featuring a black male, a white female, or a white male actor playing the role of an employee helping a customer were 19% more satisfied with the white male employee's performance and also were more satisfied with the store's cleanliness and appearance. This despite that all three actors performed identically, read the same script, and were in exactly the same location with identical camera angles and lighting. In a second study, they found that white male doctors were rated as more approachable and competent than equally-well performing women or minority doctors. They interpret their findings to suggest that customer ratings tend to be inconsistent with objective indicators of performance and should not be uncritically used to determine pay and promotion opportunities.
A customer preference for white men may also help explain why white men hold the highest paying, most prestigious, and most powerful jobs in the occupational structure. This is referred to as occupational segregation. Men tend to be highly concentrated in the top professions, such as supervisors, managers, executives, and production operators. On the other hand, women tend to be over-represented in the lowest-ranking and lowest paid professions in the workforce, such as secretaries, sales associates, teachers, nurses, and child care providers. As a result, occupations become "sex typed" as either being specifically male or female jobs. The stereotypically male-characterized occupations, in which at least 60–75% of the workers are males, are more highly paid than occupations in which 60–75% of the jobholders are women. This segregation of women into less-prestigious and lower-ranked jobs also decreases a woman's chance of being promoted, as well as the chance of having any type of power over others. Moreover, occupational segregation reduces women's access to insurance, benefits, and pensions.
Women are concentrated into the lower-ranked and lower-paid occupations within a given profession. If women are in management positions, they are more likely to be in personnel than in marketing professions; the averages salaries of each are $48,048 and $56,940 per year, respectively. Another example occurs within the medical field. Female doctors are much more likely to be heavily constricted in the family practice, obstetrics/gynecology or pediatric specialties, which average about $130,000 and $126,000 per year, respectively. However, men are more likely to become surgeons and highly specialized medical practitioners, who tend to average $240,000 or more per year.
Women hold only 16% of the top executive positions in America's largest corporations and enterprises. Additionally, the median weekly income of full-time working women is only 70.5% of full-time working men. This statistic tends to hold true across all fields of work. This gender imbalance in occupations occurs to some degree because women are more likely than men to be newcomers in many fields; therefore, they lack the primacy and the increased pay that comes with seniority. When it comes to promotions, executives look at all the work that a woman has done but only looks at the potential that a man has. A woman has to prove herself and her talent in order to be considered for the same job that a man would only have to show potential for.
Gender Inequality is often embedded within the social hierarchy and this affects how women and men are perceived in leadership roles. Different traits are ascribed to females when compared to males that often color the selection process with unfounded bias. If a female does have other traits aside from the gendered traits that she is believed to possess, then she is viewed negatively. For example, in a study conducted by Thomas-Hunt and Phillips (2004) they found that when women possessed expertise they were actually viewed as less influential by others. However, expertise was positive for males. Also, female led groups were less productive than male led groups even though the women held expertise in the area just like males. Therefore, possessing expertise is not viewed as positively as it is for males. This also suggests that lack of skills is not the only reason why women are not deemed worthy of leadership roles. As cited by Lyness and Thompson in 1997, one consequence of sex stereotypes is that women's achievements tend to be devalued or attributed to luck or effort rather than ability or skill, and therefore this stereotype has the potential to reduce the organizational awards that they receive.
Lyness and Heilman (2006) found that in a study conducted with 448 upper-level employees that women were less likely to be promoted than males, and if they were promoted they had stronger performance ratings than males. However, performance ratings were more strongly connected to promotions for women than men. This suggests that women had to be highly impressive to be considered eligible for leadership roles, whereas this was not the case for men. In a number of longitudinal studies (Cox & Harquail, 1991; Olson, Frieze, & Good, 1987; Strober, 1982; Wallace, 1989; Wood, Corcoran, & Courant, 1993), that track comparably qualified men and women, such as graduates of the same MBA program or law school, it has been shown that over time there is degradation of the women's compensation that cannot fully be explained by differences in qualifications, work history, experience, or career interruptions.
Women are more likely to choose jobs based on factors other than pay, for instance: health care and scheduling that can be managed with the duties of primary care of children for which women are still overwhelmingly responsible, and thus they may be less likely to take jobs that require travel or relocation or jobs that are hazardous. On average, women take more time off and work fewer hours, often due to the unequal distribution of childcare labor, domestic labor, medical needs specific to women, and other family issues that tend to fall to a woman's responsibility per the gender roles assigned by society. The ending result of women's extensive obligation to attend to responsibilities of the home and children is that their wages plummet. Family demands have a downward pull on women's earnings as they proceed throughout their life course. The earnings gap tends to widen considerably when men and women are in their early to mid-thirties; the gap reaches the widest point when men and women are in their fifties.
Another perspective on the gender wage gap comes from a 2008 research study by Judge and Livingston. They investigated the relationship(s) between gender, gender role orientation, and labor marker earnings. The study did not specifically look at the gender wage gap, but focused more on the impact that the interaction between gender role orientation (people's beliefs about what occupations are considered suitable and appropriate for males and females) and gender has on earnings. The researchers suggested that the gender wage gap cannot fully be explained through economic factors, offering that underlying psychological components and attitudes account for some of the difference. They found that while traditional gender roles were positively connected to earnings, that gender significantly predicted the amount and direction of this relationship. For instance, traditional gender role orientation was positively related with earnings for males, providing them with strong earnings. Meanwhile, traditional gender role orientation was slightly negatively associated with earnings for females, providing them weaker earnings. This suggests that men who have traditional male-female attitudes about working are rewarded in the workplace for seeking to maintain the social order, while women were neither rewarded nor punished. In general, the study indicated that even though gender role beliefs are beginning to become less traditional for men and women, traditional gender role orientation continues to intensify the gender wage gap.
The Pipeline Theory describes the situation in which women are placed on a track that would eventually promote them to a top executive position. However, this process is long, and women sometimes spend 20–35 years in the pipeline waiting to advance to CEO positions. While many argue that women in the pipeline are becoming sufficiently trained and educated to compete for top-level positions, others contend that women in the pipeline are being unjustly held back from advancement. The latter would call this situation the "leaky pipe," describing a situation in which the pipeline has not advanced women to top-level positions due to "leaks" and "blockages" in the pipe. For example, some believe that there are not enough women in the pipeline. Secondly, women make many sacrifices and tradeoffs while moving up the pipeline. Lastly, the environment in many companies discourages women from advancing because they are male dominated. In order for the pipeline to work there must be a desire from women to fill the high executive positions in order for them to even be considered for those positions.
In order to excel in the workplace it is important that people are familiar with a worker's strong attributes. This may present obstacles for the LGBT community because their sexual orientation may be a large factor that plays in to how they identify themselves. In a study done by Ragins in 2004, disclosure of sexual orientation has been found to have some positive, some negative, and nonsignificant effects on work attitudes, psychological strain, and compensation. Ragins, Singh and Cornwell in 2007, found that in some cases disclosure of sexual orientation has been found to result in reports of verbal harassment, job termination, and even physical assault. (D'Augelli & Grossman, 2001; Friskopp & Silverstein, 1996). In their study, Ragins, Singh and Cornwell examined fear of disclosure only among LGBT employees who had not disclosed, or had not fully disclosed their sexual identity at work. Promotion rate and compensation were used to measure career outcomes. Promotions were defined as involving two or more of the following criteria that may occur within or between organizations: significant increases in salary; significant increases in scope of responsibility; changes in job level or rank; or becoming eligible for bonuses, incentives, and stock plans. Given this definition, respondents were asked how many promotions they had received over the past 10 years. Respondents also reported their current annual compensation, which included salary, bonuses, commissions, stock options, and profit sharing. The findings showed that those who feared more negative consequences to disclosure reported less job satisfaction, organizational commitment, satisfaction with opportunities for promotion, career commitment, and organization-based self-esteem and greater turnover intentions than those who feared less negative consequences.
The glass ceiling phenomenon is one not specific to the U.S.; other women also experience barriers similar to the glass ceiling. In many developing countries improving the number of educated women has decreased the number of hours a woman works in a household. In countries such as Mexico, India, and South Africa, women work substantially more hours than men. On average women work one hour and nine minutes more.[clarification needed] With this gap women would be able to provide more money than the men if they were in paid positions. However, because women's wages are roughly twenty percent lower than that of men, it is more difficult for them to make a substantial contribution even if they did work outside the household. Statistics also show that 90% of people countries surveyed in East Africa, the Pacific, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and other transition economies thought that both husbands and wives should contribute to the household income. The glass ceiling comes into play when these women do want to go out to find work and support their family but are stopped because of lack of experience. The glass ceiling affects women and the workplace in countries all around the world.
The effect has also inspired a musical, bearing the same name. "Glass Ceiling" (2006), written by Bret VandenBos and Alex Krall, examined and parodied the idiosyncrasies of both males and females in the corporate workplace.