The Glass Ceiling and why Companies Should Place Women in Leadership Roles

The phrase, “glass ceiling” was first coined by Marilyn Loden while speaking on a panel at the 1978 Women’s Exposition in New York. Merriam Webster defines the glass ceiling as: “An intangible barrier within a hierarchy that prevents women or minorities from obtaining upper-level positions.”

More than a century ago, 15,000 female factory workers went on strike in New York city demanding higher wages, shorter hours, and better working conditions. Although working conditions for women have improved since then, women across the globe still lag behind their male counterparts and continue their attempts to break through the glass ceiling.

Existing Detriments

There are several roadblocks, however, that continue to prevent the glass ceiling from being broken.

  1. The Motherhood Penalty

Working mothers are paid less, are less likely to be promoted, and are less likely to receive pay increases. They are seen as less competent and less committed than fathers, men without children, and women without children. In fact, there is a seven percent pay disparity between working women and working mothers.

According to The Economist, compared to men,“…the median pay gap for full-time working women is still around 14%.” Their latest glass-ceiling index shows that progress for women in the workplace has stalled over the last few years.

  1. Sexual Harassment

According to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, eight in ten women will experience sexual harassment in the workplace. Forty-six percent of victims will leave their jobs, which forfeits a woman’s chance of moving up the ladder.

  1. Discrimination

Discrimination continues to be palpable in the workplace, and is illegal. Women and women of color are passed over for promotions, are paid less and given menial unpromotable tasks, and kept under the radar for job recognition and promotion.

  1. Cultural Stereotypes

Women are often stereotyped in the workplace as less competent than men. These antiquated attitudes keep the same dinosaurs in power while eliminating the chance for women to advance their careers.

Breaks in the Glass

The Me-Too Movement has reinvigorated the fight for women to gain equal footing in the workplace and government. As seen in the 2018 midterm elections, over 110 women entered Congress. These women not only broke through the glass, but did so with great diversity.

Our country is being led in the right direction according to a recent New York Times article that describes how women in politics govern differently than men.

  • Women are more collaborative and bipartisan
  • Women create and support several more policies relating to women, children and social welfare than men
  • An article in the American Journal of Political Science reports that
    “congresswomen secure roughly 9% more spending from federal discretionary programs than congressmen. Women also sponsor and cosponsor significantly more bills than their male colleagues.

Despite the upward movement and the rise of women in the political arena, the question arises whether this new wave will transfer into the corporate arena. There are many reasons why companies should begin to rethink their hiring practices to include women for leadership roles.

Research into the private sector shows how companies can benefit if women are in leadership roles, as outlined in Forbes.

  • Women leaders have increased sales revenues and certain dimensions of market performance
  • Female representation on boards of directors positively relates to a firm’s financial performance.
  • Female CEOs have a direct association with fiscal conservatism and ethical decision making

The fight continues, and more companies are beginning to realize the importance of rethinking their hiring practices to include women in more significant roles. Companies who have started this practice realize the benefits and rewards of their organizations.

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