Is the Glass Ceiling Real and Can Women Break Through?

Despite the media's attempts to depict women as gaining more success in the corporate world, gender discrimination is alive and well in our country. Yes, the so-called "glass ceiling" is real and women and minorities continue to bump their heads into it daily. The "glass ceiling" is the clever term for the subtle barrier that prevents women and minorities from moving up the corporate ladder. Although women can often see the high-level corporate positions that are available, they are routinely kept from achieving those positions. So, how can women break through?

A class, not an individual, problem

The difference between barriers based on an individual's abilities and the glass ceiling is that the barrier applies to women, as a class, who are hindered from advancing simply because they are women. Part of the problem is that the labor market remains sharply segregated. Women are delegated to mainly staff and support jobs, which provide little opportunity for significant advancement. As far back as 1986, a survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal showed that "[t]he highest ranking women in most industries [were] in non-operating areas such as personnel, public relations, or, occasionally, finance specialties that seldom lead to the most powerful top-management posts."

Who created the glass ceiling?

The mainstream opinion is that the "old-boy network" is the root of the problem. Women are most often locked out of jobs because the top level management, the individuals making the promotion decisions, are all male. With or without specific intent, these male corporate leaders tend to choose people more like themselves. As such, women are rarely considered for promotions in such an environment. The cycle, so to speak, just continues.

How can women break through?

There are no specific, foolproof steps that can be taken to break through the glass ceiling and achieve professional advancement. However, there are many different strategies that can be used to increase your chances of promotion and success. The first step is to create a plan for success. Nothing will change if you sit passively, hoping to be noticed. Research and emulate the paths that other minorities have taken to reach the place in your industry or company that you want to be.

Stay visible and promote yourself at every opportunity

In order to even crack the glass ceiling, women must remain visible to management -- those decision makers who are in the position to give promotions. You must learn to promote your skills and accomplishments. Increase your visibility and showcase your knowledge and skills in appropriate ways. Another great strategy is to find ways to increase your level of responsibility to take on more difficult challenges, for which you can also gain recognition.

Be prepared to deal with discrimination in the workplace

No matter how sound your advancement strategies may be, you will still likely face discrimination in the workplace. When faced with discrimination, it will help if you have developed a plan for how to deal with it, while continuing to implement your strategic plan for success. More importantly, do not be quick to label every roadblock as being based on racism. This perspective could make your supervisors and co-workers uncomfortable. If you are not trusted, you will not get the assignments that will help you advance, and it will also become more difficult to lead others.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.

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