International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

who are committed to their careers and serious about advancement must be willing and able to work long hours. This informal criteria for advancement works against women in two ways. First, as women still bear primary responsibility for child rearing, those who have children are often unable to work late into the evening. Even those women who are able to work late are presumed to need to leave at a specific time, and so they are often passed over for significant career-enhancing assignments and promotions. Even though women express the same level of commitment to their jobs as men and receive, on average, higher performance appraisals than men, their potential for advancement is frequently underestimated by managers using these traditional kinds of criteria to evaluate advancement potential. This is an example of what comprises a glass ceiling-a promotion requirement that seems to be gender-neutral, but has an adverse impact on women.

Similarly, women and minorities often confront stereotypes that cast doubt on their competence. For example, a task force studying the glass ceiling in the Canadian public service noted that there is a basic belief that women are better suited to support positions than supervisory or management positions. Another common belief is that women work only because they want to and not because they need to support their families. Women are, therefore, not given the same opportunities for developmental assignments that enhance their promotability. DOL found in its private sector review that minorities are also often steered into staff positions such as human resources, research, or administration, where they do not gain the experience necessary to make them competitive for executive positions.

Women and minorities are also disadvantaged by their "token" status in organizations. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter noted in her now classic work Men and Women of the Corporation ( 1977) when women and minorities are proportionally scarce in an organization or at a particular level, they become highly visible and are much more likely to be stereotyped. Any mistakes they make are immediately noticed, and these mistakes often serve as representatives of their category. For example, once a minority does not meet the expectations for a particular job, it is sometimes assumed that no minority will be suitable for that particular job.


Related Structural Metaphors

These are examples of the kinds of dynamics that operate in very subtle ways to thwart the advancement of women and minorities in organizations. Recently, other metaphors have joined the glass ceiling in describing barriers to the full participation of women and minorities in the workplace. "Glass walls" have come to describe occupational segregation, which results in the propensity for women and minorities to be more heavily concentrated in particular kinds of jobs, usually ones that enjoy little power or prestige. The fact that women are often stuck in jobs that are at such a low level that they cannot imagine even bumping into a glass ceiling (e.g., para-professional, administrative support, or service and maintenance jobs), has been called a "sticky floor."

KATHERINE C. NAFF


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kanter, Rosabeth Moss, 1977. Men and Women of the Corporation. New York: Basic Books.

Task Force on Barriers to Women in the Public Service, 1990. Beneath the Veneer: The Report of the Task Force on Barriers to Women in the Public Service. Ottawa: Canadian Government Publishing Centre.

U.S. Department of Labor, 1991. A Report on the Glass Ceiling Initiative. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor.

U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 1992. A Question of Equity: Women and the Glass Ceiling in the Federal Government. Washington, DC: U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

GLASSCO COMMISSION . The Royal Commission on Government Organisation appointed by the Canadian government in 1960. It reported in 1962 and 1963.

The Commission's chairman, J. Grant Glassco, was a leading member of the Canadian business establishment, and many of the commission's recommendations were seen as private sector answers to public sector problems. They were summed up by the press and academic commentators in the slogan "Let the managers manage."

The problems that led to the commission's appointment was a perceived inefficiency in the conduct of public business. The Canadian civil service had been, since 1919, one of the world's outstanding examples of a service in which positions were minutely classified according to scientific management principles. Lack of flexibility and inability to adapt promptly to changing needs were widely alleged against the Ottawa bureaucracy and its guardian, the Civil Service Commission (CSC).

A principal aim of the Glassco Commission's recommendations was to transfer major parts of the personnel management function out of the hands of the Civil Service Commission and into those of the heads of departments (called deputy ministers in Canada, at that time). Other CSC powers, notably the setting of civil servants' pay and the classification of their positions, were to be transferred to the Treasury Board, an administrative unit that had already become the leading power center of the bureaucracy and that, if Glassco's aims were to be achieved, would become the supreme central coordinating agency.

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