The Perception of 'Glass Ceiling' in Indian Organizations: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt

In analyzing the existence of 'glass ceiling' in India, it is not very easy to come up with definite answers. While glass ceiling phenomenon has been studied extensively in the western context, glass ceiling as perceived and dealt with in India remains largely an under researched area. The objective of this study is not only to explore if glass ceiling really exists in the Indian corporate world but also to understand the male psyche; the factors they feel are responsible for impeding women's career advancement in the Indian corporate. The data collected through a questionnaire survey is analyzed. The interesting finding has been that there appears to be a huge gap between objective facts and subjective perception. While Indian men are in denial about the existence of a glass ceiling, the underlying stereotypes are pretty well-embedded. The study is significant as it attempts to study the glass ceiling phenomenon in the Indian context and in the process examines ways of breaking the mould.

INTRODUCTION

The concept of glass ceiling has been used as a metaphor ??t 20 years now to describe the apparently invisible barriers that prevent more than a few women from reaching the top levels of management (Linehan and Walsh, 1999). This phenomenon exists even in the 21st century when globalization and technological advances have brought about 360 degree changes in all walks of life. Though women are being included in the workforce to add diversity in the work culture, the evil is still prevalent manifold. The lion's share of leadership positions throughout the world remain a male preserve as an invisible barrier Prevents women from reaching the highest corporate levels. "There is a glass ceiling in the middle of the ladder leading to the top, and it cannot be seen, but when women run into k theV bumP their heads and cannot move beyond it" (Mc Cormack, 1985). Compared to formal barriers to career advancement such as education or experience requirement, the glass ceiling barriers are less tangible hindrances- frequently anchored in culture, society and psychological factors - that impede women's advancement to upper management or other senior positions. Evidence of the glass ceiling has been described as invisible, covert and overt. At the root of the glass ceiling are gender-based barriers, commonly cited in the literature and noted anecdotally.

While glass ceiling as a barrier has been studied extensively in the western context, this remains largely an under researched area in the Indian scenario. The objective of this study is not only to explore if glass ceiling really exists in the Indian corporate world but also to understand the male psyche; the factors they feel are responsible for impeding women's career advancement in the Indian corporate. The study is significant as it attempts to study the glass ceiling phenomenon in the Indian context and in the process examines ways of breaking the mould.

FROM GLASS CEILING TO GLASS HOUSE

The term 'glass ceiling' has been thought to have first been used to refer to invisible barriers that impede the career advancement of women in the American workforce by Carol Hymowitz and Timothy Schellhardt in the March 24 edition of the Wall Street Journal in 1986 (Baker and Lightle, 2001). However, the reference can be tracked even earlier to a 1984 article in Adweek. The story profiled the then editor of Working Woman, Gay Bryant, as an important 'up and comer' and quoted her as saying, "Women have reached a certain point - I call it the glass ceiling. They're in the top of middle management and they're stopping and getting stuck" (Frenkiel, 1984). What started as 'glass ceiling' underwent several variations as the problem grew and became more and more pronounced. It was soon seen that discrimination was not only towards stopping the women from reaching greater heights, but also creating circumstances wherein she by herself felt weak and unsuitable. Hence, both vertical and horizontal aspects of glass ceiling became important. …