The glass ceiling effect is the barrier preventing women from moving up into managerial and executive positions within the workplace. However, this definition can be problematic if it doesn’t encompass all of the minorities who faced completely different experiences in an organization.
Marginalized groups such as women of color, LGBTQ individuals, working-class citizens must be taken into consideration. A better definition is “a barrier so subtle that it is transparent, yet so strong that it prevents women and minorities from moving up the management hierarchy” (Miller, 2015).
As much as this new definition holds true, there are more insidious factors that contribute to the disenfranchisement of all women at work.
Organizations reinforce a patriarchal framework and the subordination of women by feeding into stereotypes.
For instance, the characteristics often attributed to men correlate with the desired traits of effective workers. The characteristics associated with men including assertiveness, logic, and competitiveness. While the stereotypical female often denotes traits like emotional, connective, and cooperative (Miller, 2015).
Researchers have studied organizations and have found that members of organizations are concerned with women’s emotional levels at work. In fact, subjects have said that women tend to be irritable, moody, and will blame their frustration on menstruation.
Perhaps the most concerning issue is the frequent and ever-present threat of sexual harassment in the workplace.
In many studies regarding the experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace, women have identified their experience of harassment as meaningless jokes or forms of flirting. Women must perceive the experience as something trivial (Miller, 2015). Women have to accept the dominance of their male counterparts in the workplace.
Scholars have discovered that there is another subtle requirement women most achieve in the workplace; maintaining bodily display at work. Women face the dilemma of balancing a strong professional look while also preserving their feminine appeal (Miller, 2015). This requires an exercise and diet regime, concealing imperfections with makeup, and wearing clothing that supports their structure and size.
Women must also pay acute attention to their movement and position. Walking in specific ways and performing gestures in a manner that is not too aggressive while maintaining their softness. They must prevent and control bodily fluids from leaking that would be distracting in the workplace (Miller, 2015). Along with facing the demand of a disciplined body, they also are cognizant that organizations may not always be flexible with their needs outside of work.
Employers aren’t happy necessarily happy about offering time off for maternity leave. Organizations are not always willing to accommodate needs, like taking time off work for children or simply breastfeeding a baby during work hours. If a woman decides to take time off from working, entering the workforce can be an even harder battle.
Over the last several weeks during COVID-19, most individuals have been working from home — which has certainly had its own challenges for women. As cities reopen all over the country, the ongoing challenges facing women in the workplace need to be addressed and eliminated.
Reference: Miller, K. (2015). Organizational communication: Approaches and processes. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.