Unique Stressors Inhibits Career Growth Cultural Studies Essay

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The purpose of this paper to study the concept of glass ceiling and its existence. The existence of a glass ceiling as identified through various factors contributing in the glass ceiling. The factors include gender stereotype, gender discrimination & gender wage gap which acts as a unique stressors for women that not only inhibits career growth but also could be a source of stress and strain for them. There are strategies for overcoming the glass ceiling such as eliminating gender stereotyping from educational curriculum, mentoring and Office Federal Commission Contract Compliance Programs.

Introduction :

The term glass ceiling was first used by Carol Hymowitz and Timathy Schellhardt in the March (1986) edition of the Wall Street Journal to describe the limits of advancement that women face in the workplace( Hymowitz and Schellhardt 1986). The metaphor of the glass ceiling has become a popular explanation of why a very few women achieve leadership position ,why they do not appear to climb up the corporate ladder as quickly as women and why they tend to be more faced with more stringent promotion requirements than their male counterpart. Glass ceiling can be defined as invisible barriers ( "Glass") through which women can see top -level positions but cannot reach them( Ceiling).Theses invisible barriers stop women and minorities from career advancement . Gyllensten, & Palmer(2005)& Nelson, Quick, Hitt, & Moesel, (1990) described that lack of career advancement could be a source of stress and strain for many working female employees. A lot of women are entering in management field but few of them get an opportunity at the top management level .Stroh,Brett & Reilly ( 1992) found that despite of having same knowledge and skill female working managers fail to move up as quickly as male employees. There is a big question on the existence of glass ceiling within an organization because it claimed that women did not reach at high level of corporate's hierarchy due to work-family conflict or did not obtain the required levels of education and or experience . But most of the research( Catalyst ,1991;The U.S Merit Systems Protection Board,1992;U.S Department of labor ,1991) has indicated existence of barrier that stop advancement of women . Veale & Gold ( 1998) conducted research in Metropolitan District Council situated in Yorkshire, UK also found that a glass ceiling did exist within the council and this inhibited women's progression into senior management.A1995 study by the Federal Glass Ceiling found that 97 percent of the senior managers of the Fortune 500 were white and 95-97 percent were male .This is not demographically representative , considering that 57 percent of workforce consists of ethnic minorities ,women or both .In 1990,Jaclyn Fierman ( 1990) found that fewer than .5 percent of the 4,012 highest paid managers in top companies in the United States were women , while fewer than 5% of senior management in the Fortune 500 corporations were minorities .From the above study , there is a concrete evidence of existence of glass ceiling .A number of factors such as gender stereotype ,gender wage gap and gender discrimination that affect glass ceiling .

Literature Review :

The cause of stress is known as "stressors" or "stimulus" .A number of researchers discussed on the stressors. According to Cooper and Marshal (1976) stated that occupational stress includes the environmental factors or stressors such as work overload, role ambiguity, role conflict and poor working conditions associated with a particular job.P-E misfit contribute to many occupational stressors such as conflicting role demands ,work overload & role ambiguity ( Hart & Cooper 2002).Role conflict, ambiguity, and overload frequently have been studied as antecedents of occupational stress (e.g., Brief & Aldag, 1976; Ivanceyich, Matteson, & Preston, 1982; Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek, & Rosenthal, 1964; Manning, Ismael, & Sherwood, 1981; Rosse & Rosse, 1981).According to Beehr et al ( 1976),Cordes & Doughtery (1993),Dyer & Quine (1998) and Ursprung (1986) have been studied role ambiguity as a source of stress. Some stressors are common in both men and women. For example Carol Scott and Donald R.Mc Creary had discussed in his book "Handbook of Gender Research in Psychology Volume 2" that work overload and job security are commonly reported by both men and women as major stressors in the workplace ( Tennant ,2001).But some job stressors are more prominent in working women that can be referred as a unique stressors for them .Working female employees confront to unique stressors at workplace such as role conflicting ,work/home conflict, sex discrimination, gender wage gap and stereotyping (Bhatnagar, 1988; Kim, 1989; Rosenfield & Stephan, 1978; Pines & Solomon, 1979; Powell, 1988Cocchiara & Bell, 2010).Acoording to Cowan ( 1989) & Powell ( 1988) glass ceilings are unique stressors for working female .These stressors are barrier in career growth among women .Foot and Venne (1990) found that there is a positive relationship between barriers to career advancement and work stress. When there is lack of career opportunity, employee feel uncertain about the future in organization can causes job stress and glass ceiling is one the major barrier in career opportunity . For example Gold and Pringle (1988) conducted research on 50 middle and senior managers. They found that fewer female managers got promotions than male managers and therefore did not move upward in hierarchy The basis of promotions were past training, experience and personal skills. Women felt that a major barrier to their career advancement was negative organizational attitudes towards women in male environment. The 'glass ceiling' describes the largely invisible barriers that limit career advancement for women, particularly in large organizations and in male-dominated professions such as engineering and medicine. For example Tokunaga and Graham ( 1997) found that female engineers could not move upward in corporate hierarchy as male engineers did and this also indicated that glass ceiling existed and inhibited women's career growth.

"Glass ceiling" refers to invisible or artificial behaviour that inhibits the career growth of women and minorities. The term coined in the 1970s in the United States to describe the invisible artificial barriers, created by attitudinal and organizational prejudices, which block women from senior executive positions. This term glass ceiling was popularized in 1986 Wall Street Journal describing women face this invisible barrier that stops the career advancement. Morrison & Glinow ( 1990) refer glass ceiling transparent but real and strong barrier which inhibits women from upward movement in the corporate hierarchy.For example, women hold only 2% of senior management positions and only 5% of corporate board positions (Friedman, 1988). According to Catalyst (April 2012), women currently hold 3.4 percent of Fortune 500 CEO roles and 3.6 percent of Fortune 1000 roles. A number of factors that keeps glass ceiling in effect are gender stereotyping, gender wage gap, sex discrimination, and work-home conflict. Other than these factors, organizational politics also acts as a unique stressor for women (source: Optimal stress by Carol Scott) .

Factors affect Glass Ceiling :

i) Gender Stereotyping -Gender stereotype simply means generalization or perception or belief about the gender attributes. For example many managers general perception those women are caretaker to their children, elders and to their families than work. They are compassionate, caring, nurturing and sympathetic towards their family. These sorts of stereotypes can create harmful to female employees. Possibly, these types of stereotype can create barrier in career advancement for women .According to Fierman (1990 ) and Gest ( 1991) ,most of the organizations not even consider women for a promotion because some managers generalized that if a promotion requires transfer out of the town would be possible for females to go outskirts due to family responsibilities. Schein (2007) found that gender stereotyping of the managerial position has continued to be the major barrier to women's progress in management worldwide. Karin Klenke discussed in her book "Women and Leadership:A Contextual Perspective" that many of the prevailing stereotypes continue.Fig1.depicts that little boys mentioned electronic games and sports equipment ,most often ,while little girls had fashion dolls and toy animals on their list.The existence of gender stereotyping could be better explained by the Social role theory (Eagly,1987).This theory depicts that men and women behave differently in social institutions. For example women often are recognize for domestic activities,caring and nuturing to their children at home and men who often presumed financial provider or responsibilities outside home. Role congruity theory states that the perception to gender roles can be in conflict with beliefs of appropriate leadership role( as cited in Boyce Karin & Herd ,2003).These authors note that role congruity theory is especially prevalent in male dominated professions.Davis ( 2003) notes that role congruity theory integrates the social psychology perspectives regarding stereotyping with the industrial organizational psychology perspectives on perception of leadership and management roles .( p.11) .Essentially ,role congruity theory states that perceived roles of women are incompatible with the expected roles of women in society ,which leads to gender stereotyping .Eagly and Karau ( 2002) also note role congruity theory as a key factor behind gender stereotyping.Stereotype threat has been proven to negatively impact the performance of the women and specially, in her professional aspirations (Roberson and Kulik, 2007).



Electronic Games


Sports Equipment


Fashion Dolls


Toy Animals


Action Figures


Source:Adapted from Dear Santa Toys that Girl's and Boys would most likely to Receive for

Holiday Gifts USA Today , 1994.

ii) Gender Wage-gap -Apart from gender stereotyping, gender wage gap also plays its role in the organizations. Gender Wage-gap simply refers to the differences in average earnings of men and women.It measures the earning differences between women and men in paid employment United States Government Accounting Office & Sherrill (2009).Still women are paid less than men for the same job because perception originate by some individuals or groups that men are more superior than women in terms of skills, knowledge , abilities , leadership and managerial activities. According to (UNDP, 2006) two main reasons can be identified for wage gap -direct gender discrimination in labor market and occupational segregation. Direct gender discrimination exists when employees are treated differently because of gender despite of having same level of education and experience or female employees are paid less than male employees for doing the same job only due to gender. For example, consider the gender gap in salaries. In 2002, The Census Bureau reported that a woman's average salary was just 77% of the average salary for a man. Occupational segregation means that men and women can be placed in separate industries and occupation and in male dominated industries have been more highly valued with 'men's work' paid more than 'women's work'.For example women prefer to work in the lower paid jobs such as cleaning , caring, catering, clerical, cashiering, teachers ,nurses secretaries and just opposite men prefer to work in occupations with comparatively high wages such as managers , scientist , engineers , lawyers , executive etc. the average and median earnings of women in general has been much lower than the average and median earnings of men in general.To eradicate such wage gap , equal remuneration Act came into picture 1963 and this Act prohibits wage differential practice for male and female employees in a given firm. Despite of the existence of this Act , women are still paid less than men-even when we have similar education, skills and experience.Across sample of eleven European Union countries in 1995-2001.Generally ,women are paid less than men and when wage gap is wider at the top of wage distribution known as 'glass ceiling' effect and when wage gap is wider at the bottom of the wage distribution known as 'sticky floor'(Booth & Bryan;2007) . Arulampalam et al. (2007)described the term 'sticky floor' when the wage gap is wider at the bottom of wage distribution. For example ,In the 1990s,Swedish wage gap was due to wage gap at the top of the wage distribution .Business week magazine noted that those who do make it to the top are paid "substantially less than their male counterparts" with women paid 68 cents for every dollar paid to a male corporate officer (Hammonds, 1998,). Gender wage gap vary from country to country. It has been found that the highest gender wage gap is in Korea and Japan at 39% difference and 28% difference between women and men's salaries. Hungary is the lowest with 4%.

(iii) Gender discrimination- Gender discrimination would include hiring or promoting one person overran equally qualified person because of the individual's race, sex etc; or payinga male more than a female to perform the same job. Bell ,McLaughlin and Sequeria ( 2002) discussed about relationship between discrimination , harassment and glass ceiling and found glass ceiling was one the form of gender discrimination . Discrimination can be categorized into horizontal and vertical discrimination. Sticky Floor also refers to the horizontal discrimination against women, which means that women are discriminated in appointment, trainings and assignments. On the other aspects ,there are various reasons behind vertical discrimination or glass ceiling .First, according to Reskin et al ( 1986) homosocociality implies that men have tendency to prefer men for relaxation and social support. Second , according to Ackler ( 1990) men are better suited for leadership position than women such attitudes can be used by men in organization to secure power and authority ( Rosefield et al 1990) and third statistical discrimination , where women not get promotion by their boss because women are more frequent absent from work than men ,due to caretaker and child bearing responsibilities. (De Laricaet all., 2005).

Breaking the Glass Ceiling :

Karin Klenke mentioned in her book "Women and Leadership :A Contextual perspective" that the existence of glass ceiling not only hampers an individual but society as whole. It effectively cuts our pool of potential corporate leaders by eliminating over one of our population .It deprives our economy of new leaders , new sources of creativity -the "would be" pioneers of the business world .It is important to crack the glass ceiling .Lynn Martin ,former Secretary of Labour ( U.S Department of Labour , 1991pp1-2)

Breaking the Glass Ceiling Can Reach The Top of America? ( Morrison et al ;1987,1992) was first published in 1987 and has spurred a lively discussion among laypeople and researchers in the academic , trade and popular press. According to Morrison et al the glass ceiling is not a simply a barrier for an individual woman , rather it applies to as a group who are kept from advancing higher because they are women .They concluded that in order to reach high-level position,women are expected to have more strength and fewer faults than their male collegues.

Eliminating gender-stereotyping from educational curriculum -Most of the books portray women's image as a child bearer , homemaker , nurturer and applicable for traditional occupations such as nurse , teachers and secretary .Nowadays women had changed the trend and started working as a CEO , bank manager , lab technicians and sales personnel . A number of countries have reviewed systematically to reduce gender stereotype .For example Azerbajan had taken initiative to revise the content of text books to reduce stereotypically image of women. In 1990s, Argentina launched a national programme to promote equal opportunity of men & women in education. The main objective of this programme to revise curriculum which reflects women's participation in all areas.

Mentoring -Mentoring can overcome the glass ceiling .Mentoring has a number of benefits such as career advancement , job performance , promotion decisions and low absennteism.For example Roche ( 1979),conducted research on executives and found that two-thirds of executives had mentors and received higher salaries and bonuses and total compensation than their counterparts without mentors .The same kind of research being conducted by Reily and Wrunch ( 1985) and found that women with mentors were more satisfied with their jobs and had great success than women without mentor.

Office Federal Commission Contract Compliance Programs - It enforces laws and regulations that prohibit government contractor and sub-contractor from discriminating in their employment practices against women and minorities .Such practices include an organisational's personnel selection system , performance evaluations ,assignments to training programs and salary and benefit systems .Organization ,including those of federal contractors are required by law to make good-faith efforts to attract , develop and retain women and minorities.

Apart from these governmental intiatives the glass ceiling phenomenon induced discussion and in the January -February 1989 issue of Harvard Business Review , Felice N.Schwartz president and founder of catalyst wrote an article " Management Women and the New Facts of Life" contained provocative ideas such as it is very costly to hire women as compare to men because women's attrition rate is higher than male employee as well as women's career become disturbed when they have children.His ideas were dubbed " Mommy track"because he suggested that corporate should adopt two-tired system for women employees ,one for career oriented and one for those who divide their attention between work and family .For the former group , Schwartz suggested that all obstacles to advancement should be cleared .For women who are both career and family oriented , he argued that companies must become more flexible to make the best use of employees.They must plan for and manage maternity better, provide greater workplace and work hour flexibility and make high quality day care available.( major source Work in America:An Encyclopaedia of History , Policy and Society .)

The laws and statues prohibiting employment discrimination and the guidelines for eliminating wage and career advancement disparities need to be enforced if they are to achieve their goals. These include European Union ( EU), Equal pay Directive , the United Nations Global Impact, International Labour Organization ( ILO),Equal Remuneration Convention 100,and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ( OECD)Guidelines for Multinational Enterprise ( Lockwood ;2004).

A study of Fortune 1000 CEOs and Senior executives found that 47% of women thought they were held back from progression in their careers due to their exclusion from informal network ( Catalyst2003).As network " can be magnet for recruiting and retaining top achievers ''Bready and McGregor( 2007) ,they can serve as powerful career advancement tools. For these networks to meet women's need women must work to improve their networking skill ,which are less developed than men ( Kummara & Vincombe, 2008).This can be accomplished attending workshop and by becoming active in professional associations and groups.

Women at a distinct



Fig:1( CFactors affecting Glass ceiling)


A quantitive study of perception Female Air Force Leaders By Melissa Anne Stone.