Few cracks in the glass ceiling

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TheStar.com – opinion/editorials
Published On Sun Sep 04 2011.

Judging from the flattering portraits of female executives in business publications, the increase in female MBA graduates and rhetoric of equality used by business leaders, you’d think women were rising through the ranks of corporate Canada.

You’d be wrong. A new Conference Board of Canada study shows that women’s advancement to the top echelons of business came to a dead halt in the mid-1980s. It has been stalled ever since.

“Now that the rousing early days of feminism are behind us, perhaps we have become complacent about the success of women in senior management,” said Anne Golden, president and chief executive of the Ottawa-based research organization.

The researchers who analyzed the data were shocked. Like most Canadians, they assumed women were slowly but steadily reaching the top. What they found was no improvement since 1987. Using Statistics Canada records, they tracked the percentage of women in senior management over a 22-year period. By 2009, 0.32 per cent of women had made it to the top echelon compared to 0.64 per cent of male workers — virtually identical to the proportions when Brian Mulroney was prime minister, the loonie had just been introduced and Sidney Crosby was a newborn.

The hard numbers were more enlightening than the researchers’ attempts to explain why women had made so little headway.

They pointed to women’s educational choices (arts and humanities as opposed to technical disciplines), their desire for work-life balance, and the stereotypes that still prevail as possible barriers. They pointed out that most employers do not have a strategy to groom women for executive roles. And they echoed from women in business that they are judged on their appearance and expected to adopt male norms.

Sound familiar? It is. These same barriers have been identified repeatedly since women joined the workforce in large numbers in the 1960s and ’70s.

Likewise, the Conference Board’s remedies — more coaching and mentoring programs, a more inclusive work environment, an ongoing effort to promote talented women and track their progress, and a commitment to ensure that women are on the short list for senior management positions — have all been suggested many times.

The mainstream think-tank did not call for a radical shakeup of corporate culture. Nor did it propose new ways that women could use technology to keep their careers on track without sacrificing family responsibilities. It merely stressed that “fostering gender diversity is a natural extension of good business practice.”

But the report does serve one valuable purpose. It shatters the long-standing myth that time corrects gender equities. It’s true that a few female stars have cracked the glass ceiling. But the path to the top is still blocked for most women.

< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/1048856–few-cracks-in-the-glass-ceiling >

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2 Responses to “Few cracks in the glass ceiling”

  1. Emily Moffatt says:

    When reading this article, it is disappointing to realize that women have not been making that final step in order to reach into the senior management positions. Women for some time now have been wanting to believe they can “make it in a man’s world”, and as a woman, I believe we can. The article specifically criticizes women for continuing education in arts and social sciences instead of pursuing jobs in fields that are seen to be dominated by men which include the sciences and engineering. The article also states that employers are not encouraging and providing women with the necessary steps to proceed into upper management. I believe this to be true. I believe that there are still employers that believe a woman cannot do what a man can and believe that woman need to listen and not lead. I do not believe this for all employers, but because of personal experiences and experiences that were expressed to me by different individuals, it is hard not to believe that equality is gone from our society.

    I agree with the article when it states that employers and companies need to mentor women in order to be able to let them pursue jobs in senior management positions. Programs need to be developed that give women the proper skills to lead and contribute in those kind of positions to be able to prove that women are not being treated how they were in the past when women were first introduced to the workforce. We have come a long way, and it would be going back into old ways if women were not given the same opportunity as men when it comes to competing for jobs and succeeding in upper management positions.

  2. Brianne Rochon says:

    I choose the article “Few cracks in the glass ceiling” as I am very interested in promoting equality and fighting discrimination. As a young woman who is continuously learning and striving for a productive and rewarding career, I was shocked to realize that in over 22 years there has been no improvement in women rising through the ranks of corporate Canada (Para.1). While I did not expect complete equality between men and women in senior management, I certainly believed that more women had achieved top positions. I was disheartened to realize that for every top position, it is two times more likely that a male will be the successful candidate. In part, I am surprised by this reality because I know many women who are in senior positions, such as directors of education, politicians and government officials. However, having read this article, I now realize that while some women have advanced to senior positions, their educational choices are more related to the arts and humanities as opposed to technical disciplines (Para.5). This article highlights for me that we are still living with gender inequity, despite many years of effort.

    The article also describes the researcher’s attempts to explain this inequity, including issues of work-life balance, the continuation of gender stereotyping, and the need for female executives to act like their male counterparts. I believe these reasons are valid, as in my own experience I have witnessed women in the workforce being judged by their appearance. I also firmly believe that the issue of child bearing and rearing continues to pose a barrier for both recruitment and promotion for women. The article describes some recommendations to foster gender diversity which I strongly support. I believe programs that encourage women’s growth and development in the workplace are very beneficial and can potentially increase women’s chances for advancement. I also agree with the author’s suggestion that women’s use of technology, such as online courses from their home, could further improve career progression (Para. 9). I was disappointed that the issue of workplace childcare that is both affordable and flexible was not identified as a possible remedy. I am committed to continue to learn how I can assist in raising awareness and making positive change to promote gender equality.


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