Does the “Glass Ceiling” Really Exist?
According to Wikipedia1 the term “glass ceiling” was coined in 1979 by two women at Hewlett-Packard, Katherine Lawrence and Marianne Schreiber. Since then, it has been used to refer to the “invisible” barrier that prevents women and minorities from advancing into high ranking positions in business.
I’ve always heard the term, but generally disregarded it. So I’ll ask the question, does the “glass ceiling” really exist? It’s the favorite “reason” used to describe the failure of women to attain top level positions and close the “pay gap”.
However, data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suggests that gender based discrimination is on the decline.2 An article in the economist suggests the disparity in pay is the result of women being judged by the same standards as men.3 In my opinion, that’s a victory!
Is it possible that today the glass ceiling is more myth than reality? What if it is nothing more than a self-limiting belief foisted upon us by the media and academia or previous generations of women? Have we created an excuse that now holds us back and excuses our failure?
“Breaking through” the glass ceiling is possible. Carly Fiorina is among the most recent notable successes and failures. She rose to power at Hewlett-Packard and declared the glass ceiling no longer existed there. Some time after being dethroned for failing to perform to shareholder expectations she said, “that was a dumb thing to say.”
I remember listening to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. In it, she referred to 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling. She didn’t fail in her bid for the Presidency because of the “glass ceiling”. She failed to take candidate Obama seriously and step up her performance.
I don’t doubt that there are some men who actively try to prevent women from advancing, but I believe they are the exception rather than the rule. At some point, each person has to own the responsibility for their performance. And when you do, you realize: there is no one to blame. No man stands between you and the success you desire. The only one standing between you and the success you desire is YOU!
So what is your opinion? Feel free to comment! I look forward to the discussion.
“The glass ceiling is about 6 inches wide and less than 1 millimeter thick. It is very thin and fragile…and it exists primarily in the space between one’s ears.” ~ Leslie
1 Background for this article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_ceiling
2 Reflections on the Glass Ceiling – 5 Keys to Thriving in a Male Dominated Workplace (soon to be released)
3 The Economist December 30, 2009 Female Power