Looking Through the Glass: A Modern Perspective on the Glass Ceiling

By Ashley Daniel

We are fortunate enough to live in a time where “You can be anything you want to be!” is a prominent statement in nearly every child’s life. However, an overwhelming number of statistics accompanied by a series of public events this year have us all questioning that statement more than ever. Can I be anything I want to be? Are there limits to my success? After consulting a number of articles, I have decided to dive deeper into this idea of The Glass Ceiling.

The U.S. Department of Labor defines the glass ceiling as “those artificial barriers based on attitudinal or organizational bias that prevent qualified individuals from advancing upward in their organization into management-level positions.”1 The glass ceiling has kept women and minorities from attaining well-deserved promotions and pay raises for years…but does it still exist in our forward-thinking, 2016 society?

While I personally find the arguments against the glass ceiling incredibly weak, I must acknowledge them. There are no laws in this country that prevent women from getting the same educational opportunities as men, so in that sense, yes there is equality. But to argue this point,  there are studies proving that even with that equivalent education, men are more likely to get the same job over women. And to the point that “women’s job choices keep them off of the executive track”2 …I don’t buy it. No male, female, minority, etc. is spending upwards of a quarter of a million dollars at a top university to hold a middle level management position his or her entire life.

For those of you doubting the authenticity of the glass ceiling, the numbers simply don’t lie. While Ivy League schools across the nation have nearly a 1:1 gender ratio, that equality is not reflected in the corporate world. At the start of the new year, there were only 21 female CEOs representing Fortune 500 companies— an astonishing 4%. If that number isn’t shocking enough, the current growth rate projects that we will add just one more powerful woman to that list every two years.3

Understanding the glass ceiling is important not only for feminists and equal rights activists, but also because statistically gender diversity actually works. Women are half of the consumer population, so why should women not be half of the decision makers? A 2015 study by McKinsey Global Institute found that “advancing women’s equality [in the workplace] could add $12 trillion to global economic growth in a decade.”4 But women can’t be CEOs because they don’t have the masculinity required to be a respected leader? Because only a man has the presence to demand attention during an important pitch? A demanding man is seen as authoritative, but a demanding woman is often referred to as “bossy”. The stereotypes are endless but the truth is- there is no doubting that a boardroom can benefit from the diverse experiences and attitudes of a balanced gender ratio.

The necessary proposal of that question says it all. In the words of Hillary Clinton, “Now I know we have still not shattered the highest and toughest glass ceiling, but someday someone will, and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.”5

1 Lewis, Jone Johnson. “Glass Ceiling: An Invisible Barrier to Success.” About.com Education. August 31, 2016. Accessed November 13, 2016. http://womenshistory.about.com/od/work/g/glass_ceiling.htm.

2 Lewis, Jone Johnson. “Glass Ceiling: An Invisible Barrier to Success.” About.com Education. August 31, 2016. Accessed November 13, 2016. http://womenshistory.about.com/od/work/g/glass_ceiling.htm.

3 Bellstrom, Kristen. “Why 2015 Was A Terrible Year to Be a Female Fortune 500 CEO.” Fortune. December 23, 2015. Accessed November 13, 2016. http://fortune.com/2015/12/23/2015-women-fortune-500-ceos/.

4 Sethi, Rekha. “Why Gender Diversity Is a Business Imperative.” Business News. October 9, 2016. Accessed November 15, 2016. http://www.businesstoday.in/magazine/features/why-gender-diversity-is-a-business-imperative/story/237486.html.

5 “Hillary Clinton’s Concession Speech.” CNN. November 9, 2016. Accessed November 15, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/09/politics/hillary-clinton-concession-speech/index.html.

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