Are Women Treated Differently Commerce Essay


Glass ceiling is an unspoken, unseen artificial barrier that prevent women from advancing on their career to senior level position regardless of all the qualifications, experience and achievement. Even though there is no law saying women cannot obtain the executive position in the organization or in any other field, there are obstacles that lie beneath the surface which women are unable break so that she can achieve her goal. It now has different meaning than it was first coined in Civil Rights Act of 1964. The term 'Glass Ceiling' was again mentioned by Carol Hymowitz and Timothy Schellhardt in 1986 to determine gender bias in corporate America (Smith and Burke).

Federal Glass Ceiling Commission that surveyed corporate leaders, women, minorities acknowledge that glass ceiling exists in the organization but also concluded that the biasness towards women and minorities are diminishing compared to decade ago and is moving in a positive direction because of the changing demographics in labor force, national consumer market and rapid globalization of the marketplace (DOL).

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For centuries, women have always been dominated by man. The men were the bread earner in the family and women were taking care of the family and home. Most women, themselves never thought of working outside their home. Those who were working were from lower class and only used to do household works. That's how society worked for centuries. But that all changed during the World War II. Women were called to work on production line because men were off to war. This was thought to be a temporary solution for the shortage in the workforce. Women were given access to high-skilled job that were done by men. Most people thought that once men returned from war, they will do the work and women will go back to their own lifestyle, which is taking care of home and family. But women hold their grip and stayed and work-force got divided between men and women. Labor force was no longer male dominated.

After World War II, the gap between male and female in the workforce started to get slimmer. Women were made up of only 14.8% of workforce in 1967. Their representation in the workforce has been increasing slowly in recent years. Women now comprise of 46.6% of labor force in US (BLS).

Some people argue there are no such things as Glass Ceiling and it does not exist anymore. Carleton Fiorina, first female CEO of Hewlett Packard in 1999 claimed that there is no such thing as glass ceiling. She added that there are no limits for women and they can achieve whatever they want if they are dedicated and determined (Cotter et al., 2001). In 2006 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, current president of Liberia was able to crack the glass ceiling by being the only women to contest with 22 presidential candidates and finally break the glass ceiling by winning the presidency of Liberia (Harsch). Others like Professor Harminia Ibarra, and Professor Morten T. Hansen, argues that glass ceiling still exist. They studies data of 2009 from leadership of 2000 world performing companies and found that one only woman, Meg Whitman- former CEO of eBay and Current CEO of Hewlett Packard, made it to their 100 CEOs list. They claim that Glass Ceiling exists not only in corporate world but also in educational institutions and public administration (Ibarra &Hansen).

Research Supporting One Side or View

In today's working environment, women are demanding more equality. Modern women now have access to top quality education as men do. Their rights are being protected by regulations that focus on gender equality and discrimination against women. They are given same respect as men and are considered an asset by organizations and society; not just a person who is supposed to spend their time in kitchen and taking care of families. The status of the women in the profession environment is improving. Women's are more and more involved in the business decisions of the company. They are on top leadership positions or are on the way to be prospective leaders in near future. Women like Hillary Clinton of US, Suu Kyi of Myanmar, and Sonia Gandhi of India are now successful politicians. When people see women in such an influential positions, it is possible to believe that glass ceiling extinct long ago.

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But in reality the problem of glass ceiling is still at large. Even though women grasp in politics and in business are growing, they are still understated in male controlled society. According to UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) report of 2010, only 17% seats are occupied by women in national parliaments, less than 5% elected Heads of the State are women, and less than 6% of the women are Heads of Government in the world. Only 8% of companies with female in senior level positions have female Chief Executive Officers globally. In every sector and in all provinces of the world, women are underrepresented.

There is a realization that presence of women is needed to spread the diversity and understanding of human knowledge, but nothing concrete has been done to promote it. Women face disadvantage in managerial and professional settings. As women advances on her career, the bias against them becomes more severe. They experience significant gap in their earnings and low probability of getting promoted. Women are treated differently not only because of job relevant qualifications, but social condition in the workplace and cultural biasness also plays a key role in the existence of glass ceiling. Stereotyping and preconceptions about the role of the women still exist in the society. Especially, in Africa, Southeast Asia, Middle East there is a huge gender gap in the highest position of the company. Women are ignored and are not considered fit to run the big corporation in these regions.

In Africa, even though women are on top leadership positions and are shattering glass ceiling, there still is a huge gender disparity in the workplace. The route to reach the top is twice hard for women than it is for men. Women have to go through humiliation and have to face dire consequences if they stand up to men. Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), a Malawian human rights watchdog claims that women who challenge to run for elective office are summoned to present in village court on allegations for insulting men by running for the office (Opio, 2011).

In Canada, women comprises of 47.3% of labor force, but only 35.4% of women held the management occupations and less than 23% women are in senior management occupations (Catalyst). The percentage of women in senior level position is less than it was a decade ago.

In Japan, women comprise of 42.6% of the total workforce, but only 8% women held the senior managerial position in the country (Hays). Japan is among the country with lowest percentage of women in senior management occupations.

In India, women comprise of 39.9% of the total workforce, but only 3% of the women are in legislative, management and senior level positions. Women have to face many obstacles to reach to the senior managerial level. Women bosses are not respected by men and are excluded from formal and informal networks. Glass ceiling exist in India and can be easily visible. According to the study done in 2011 by Gender Diversity Benchmark, women at junior level of the workplace comprise of 28.71%. As they move up to the higher level, the percentage of women in the workplace decreases, comprising of only 14.9% at middle level. The percentage of women decreases considerably as she moves to senior level, which comprises of only 9.32%. (Catalyst).

Survey done in 2009 by McKinsey of corporations who have interest in the emerging market reveals that less than 20% of the companies have shown initiatives in promoting women in the workforce (Coleman). More than 80% company executives have shown no initiatives to empower women in the workforce. Companies that have shown initiatives reported that they have already seen profits on their investment because of their decision to empower women. Though the outcome is positive, women are still underrepresented in the workforce globally.

Studies done by Catalyst , New York based research organization in 2011 discovered that even though women made up 46.6% of labor force in US, women are accounted for only 7.5% top earner executive officer position and only 16% women are on board seats at Fortune 500 companies. They also found out that in Fortune 500 companies, there are no female executive officers in more than 125 companies. Moreover, in 2008 during the time of recession, women in senior level position were three times more likely to lose their job than male in similar positions (Schlesinger).

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Herminia Ibarra and Morten Hansen stresses on the research completed by Catalyst Corporation which shows that women comprise 57% of college students but only 26% are full professors and only 14% are University Presidents. They also point out to the fact that 47.2% of women are law school graduates but only 25% of them are judges (Williams.).

There is a huge gender wage gap among male and female. Even though women have same qualifications, experience and education, women are paid less compared to men. Gender gap hasn't changed for a decade. Based on the 2011 Current Population Survey, women are earning 77 cents for every dollar men earn; 23 cents less compared to men (Catalyst).Women are still facing lots of obstacles in the workplace. Federal Glass Ceiling Commission (FGCC), a bipartisan body appointed by President George H.W.Bush in 1991 discovered three levels of barriers to the advancement of women career in higher position

The first level is societal barriers which includes the educational background of women. These barriers are outside the control of the business. Stereotyping, favoritism, bigotry also falls in societal barriers.

The second level is internal structural barriers. This includes lack of mentoring, inadequate recruitment practices and advance management training. Perception and fear are the main reasons men are not providing enough training and mentoring to women. They fear that they will lose the opportunities to advance their own career if they provide mentoring to women. Men look for people who are like them, culturally and ethnically.

Third level is a government barrier. Government is not consistently monitoring the glass ceiling in the workplace. They are unable to collect the employment related data effectively and only few glass ceiling in a workplace are being reported.

Survey conducted by Catalyst in 2003 with CEOs from Fortune 1000 companies and with senior level female employees reveals that lack of experience in general management was the main barrier in the career advancement of the women to senior leadership roles. It also reveals that two-third of CEOs believe the role of the company is crucial to meet the management needs of women. Furthermore, almost 50% women showed exclusion from informal networks as a barrier to their career advancement, compared to 18% CEOs who believes exclusion from informal network as a barrier in women career advancement. 16% of women believe that lack of mentoring as a barrier in their career advancement (Lockwood).

Glass Ceiling exists because people in senior level positions believe that managerial role requires strong technical and interpersonal skills and there is a common perception of masculinity. Women are less likely to have all these masculine qualities and are therefore deprived from the senior level positions in the organization. They are punished because they fail to adapt to societal expectation where men are considered to be decisive, confident, determined and rational and women are considered to be soft, dependent, helpful and friendly. Since senior level executives views all the leadership qualities in men, women are not considered for top position. Women are only able to reach to certain level in corporate hierarchy before they encounter with glass ceiling that prevents them from reaching to the senior level status in the company.

One of the examples that show the existence of glass ceiling would be the statement by Rhonda Harper, former Vice-President of Marketing at Sam's Club in Dukes vs. Wal-Mart case (Featherstone).In her testimony she explained how she was told by senior vice president Ray Hobbs that she should not worry about advancing her career at Wal-Mart and should spend time in kitchen and looking after her family. She further add that to be accepted in a group of executives, she had to get involved in made dominating activities such as hunting and fishing which she didn't enjoyed.

This not only shows the male domination in the corporate world but also a glass ceiling that women encountered when she further wants to advance her career. She either has to fit in with cultures of company, dominated mostly by males or has to lose her job, which happened to Rhonda harper. She was fired by the Company when everyone was expecting she would be the new CEO of Wal-Mart because she could not fit within the men's club of Wal-Mart

Research Supporting the Opposite View

Many top level managers, researchers argue glass ceiling is long gone and there is no such thing as glass ceiling. The glass ceiling that exists today is in the minds of the women, who label it a 'glass ceiling' if she is not selected for the senior level position. Hillary Davey, a multi-millionaire and mother of two enunciates that glass ceiling is nothing but an excuse for women own incompetence in the corporate world (Glennie). Women are given equal opportunities as men and have managed to get equal or surpass the position of men not only in the corporate world but also in other areas such as politics. Women like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are now in a leadership position serving their country.

One of the reason women are not in a top level position is because many women goes for less demanding careers where they don't have to fully commit to their work and can leave time for their family. They are not promoted because they don't apply for promotions and want to work less hours with less or no stress at all. Review of the research evidence by Catherine Hakim shows that when choices are open to women, twenty percent are home-centered women who do not prefer to work and gives priority to family values, sixty percent are adaptive women who want to work but do not want to totally committed to work career and only twenty percent are work centered women who are committed to work (Hakim, 2006).

Survey of 6.700 companies in Japan in 2002 revealed that 51% of the respondents agree that women tend to choose job that do not lead them to management position. The survey also revealed that women are not willing to travel on business trips or relocate, which is important in managerial jobs (International Labor Office).

This statistics shows that women own personal preferences are the reasons for not achieving the highest position in the field they work, and not the glass ceiling. Some women walk away from their job to start their own business. It's not that they are forced to leave the company but they made a choice to live on their own terms and conditions.

Lorraine Heggesssey, the first female controller of BBC1 in the interview with Evan Davis describes it's not the glass ceiling that stops women in their career advancement. She explains that there are barriers that men or women don't realize even exist. She gave the example when she was a producer of current affairs at BBC1. She clarifies men tend to discuss assignment with peers at break time or during the course of the football match and finish it. She adds that men are not trying to be sexist or trying to discriminate against her but it is convenient to them at that time (BBC Radio). It's the lack of experience that is the obstacles in women career advancement, not glass ceiling.

Maureen Rice, editor of Psychologies magazine writes that 60% of the middle level women give up their career on their mid-30's onwards to spend more time with their families. Rice gave an example of a woman at 20's who was enjoying her job to the fullest but lost the spark at her 30's because of the routine work. Rice adds that though the woman was talented and have achieved success in her career, she wanted to apply the glass ceiling to her own career for her personal gain.

Research done by Elacqua, Beehr, and Hansen also points out to the fact that men tend to be more involved in interpersonal relationships and in situational issues than women. Women have trouble establishing mentoring relationship with the male-dominated careers and exclude themselves from powerful male networks, thus eliminating the possibility of moving up the career ladder. Research also indicated that women do not use network because they feel that it is not necessary for themselves and for their company.

But male use their interpersonal skills to establish relationship with mentors who are usually high ranking officers and senior level employees, thereby increasing their chances of actually be promoted in upper level positions. It is not the glass ceiling that is stopping women to achieve what they want but the lack of confidence in their own ability to approach to mentors and ask for their guidance and information that prevents them to climb to the senior position in the organization. They are scared of refutation and therefore are not able to climb to the top.

Study commissioned by Dell and conducted by Harris Interactive on women manager in multinational companies around the world reveals that glass ceiling is not the factor women consider before they quit the workforce or join the workforce in the first place. The study concluded that there are various challenges women faces that prevent them from advancing on their career, regardless of any cultures. Study discovered that women exit the workforce for personal and family responsibilities. They felt that these responsibilities were the main hindrances in their career advancement. 76% women echoed personal and family obligation as the reason for leaving workforce, 73% women said excessive hours at the workforce as the main reason, 67% women said their own personal choice as reason for leaving the workforce, 46% said less salary compensation as reason for leaving workforce and 38% said they were forced to stay home (Rudrappa).

Study conducted by Harris Interactive also reveals that the main reason women stayed in the workforce or accepted the job in the first place was for good compensation package, status, opportunities for challenging work and advancement in the company, and for company values. 76% women said they looked for good compensation and benefit packages before joining the company, 58% said company position mattered in their selection of the company, 51% women said opportunities for challenging work to be the reason that attracted them to the company, 44% said that opportunity for advancement in their career within the organization as a reason they are staying with the company and 42% said that need to identify company values as main reason they stayed with the company (Rudrappa).

Discussion and Analysis

Based on the research that I have done, there is no disbelief that women status in the workforce is improving. But the growth rate of women in the workforce has not been satisfactory. According to Catalyst (2012), a non-profit membership organization, only 14.1% women are in the executive officer position in and only 16.1% women were in board seats at Fortune 500 in 2011, even though more than 50% women are in management, professional and other related positions.

The statistics clearly indicates that senior level position is still being dominated by men. This also shows that women are still facing discrimination in the workplace, are not provided with proper advance training, and are excluded from certain areas where her presence disrupts norm of male dominance, thereby showing glass ceiling existence in the workplace.

Statistics from women workforce in India, Japan and Canada shows that senior level managements, dominated by men, are still reluctant to accept the policies that are beneficial to women in the workplace. They are unable to accept the fact that promoting women in workplace is a good business practice and can be fruitful for the company.

Research also suggests that women share of professional job in 2009 falls to 2004 levels. Research done by Grant Thornton International Business Report (2011) found that women only hold 20% of senior management position worldwide, 4% less than 2009. Research also revealed that there is some improvement in privately held businesses where women 38% women are in senior management position, 3% increase than 2009.

My finding indicates that India, United Arab Emirates and Japan have the lowest percentage of women in senior managerial positions. Less than 10% of senior management position is being held by women in these countries. Thailand was ranked first with 45% of women in senior management position followed by Georgia with 40% and then Russia with 36% (Grant Thornton International Business Report).

My finding also suggests that glass ceiling existence has been questioned many times by different authors, researchers and agencies. Some believe in glass ceiling existence, others believe that there is no such thing as glass ceiling and it is only a myth. There is also confusion on what should be considered as glass ceiling or how glass ceiling should be defined.

Federal Glass Ceiling Commission (FGCC) define glass ceiling as an unseen barrier that keeps women or minorities from rising to the corporate hierarchy regardless of her education qualification, achievement and experience. It shows the inequality over a period of years when women starts her career but finds herself excluded when it comes to promotion or pay raise. But FGCC definition is not clear to its core. Glass ceiling should not include all inequality towards the women. Rather, it should focus only on job inequality that reflects the discrimination in labor market and not only just inequality in labor market. Inequalities that stem from choices people make to pursue their goals such as family preference, leisure are not considered glass ceiling.

FGCC definitions claims that as women moves to the top of the corporate ladder, discrimination increases with her. So, if women are not treated seriously by their male colleagues, is it considered glass ceiling? Women in all level -professional or non-professional might face the same situation in their workplace. It can be a common pattern of gender inequality but, it cannot be considered a glass ceiling. So the definition of glass ceiling needs to be closely examined.

According to Liz Bingham, managing partner for people, the idea that there is a glass ceiling that exist in the organization, as a working concept for today's career is dead. He adds that because of various barriers company are losing brightest female talent from the pipeline (Anderson). Women from the survey reveal that lack of experience and qualification are the main barriers in their career and not the glass ceiling.

Survey conducted by Big4 firm with 1,000 working women reveals age as the biggest obstacles in their career. Almost half of the women between 18 and 23 expressed that age has already become a problem. Almost 33% women said that they have been perceived as either too young or too old to work and another 27% said that age is influencing their career growth in negative way (Foster). But, these are the barriers that most of the women face and cannot be termed as a glass ceiling.

From the research that has been conducted on glass ceiling, I would recommend that women get professional training and education that helps to advance their career and reach the highest level in the organization. Research done by Catalyst revealed that firms are striving to address glass ceiling issues because of high turnover of talented women employee from the workforce. Business must therefore identify the corporate environment dimensions that are preventing them from retaining women and should communicate the business case throughout the organization (Successful Initiatives).

Company should realize that the key business measurement for success is the diversity in the workplace, which includes women in senior positions. They should monitor the impact of recruiting strategy that was aimed at attracting women to senior level position.

Women should have access to management training, mentors and role models at the senior level as well as entry to formal and informal network.

If glass ceiling is functioning in the company, company should quickly address it and find solutions to overcome it. Top management should realize that glass ceiling presence in the company is bad for company image and therefore should be committed to change the existing culture within the organization.

Company should aggressively lead the change management diversity program for managers and employees and should develop and implement the retention programs for women. It should implement leadership development program that helps to educate and support women in their career development.

Company needs to put effort to ensure that equal employment opportunity policies are being carefully monitored. Negligence in the policies might bring lawsuit from women who might accused company of discrimination and favoring glass ceiling.

Family friendly policies should be implemented to support women at work. This might include flexible working hours, tele-commuting, day care facilities. Google has been providing day care facility for employees at subsidized rate for years.

Company must ensure that anti-discrimination laws are in placed so that women can get the same access to jobs as men.

State and local governments should conduct gap analysis on what they are doing currently to remove glass ceiling and what they can do to more to completely eliminate glass ceiling.

Government has also recommended different ways that need to be addressed to eliminate the glass ceiling such as intensify the effort to impose anti-discrimination laws, make employment related data available whenever needed, report the issue relevant to glass ceiling to law enforcement.


It is difficult to find ways to help break the glass ceiling. The process is long and often difficult. There are no silver bullets in solving the issues relevant to glass ceiling but women all over the world now have been breaking glass ceiling. More women are in the senior level in the organization than before, though the rate of progress is slow. Therefore, support from business and government is needed for research on glass ceiling. Implementing the idea of diversity, observing the view of media and conveying significance to integrate and into leadership structure is one way to solve the issue of glass ceiling. However, women should take the existence of glass ceiling as a challenge that she needs to win and men should make a way for talented women to reach to senior level position without placing any hurdles.