The Glass Ceiling: Women Rising in Management

Article excerpt


Does the glass ceiling really exist? According to Ann Ronce (The Three Levels of the Glass Ceiling: Sorcerer's Apprentice to Through The Looking Glass, 1991) the answer is yes, because we haven't seen it for what it is. So how do we attempt to explain the glass ceiling? One approach is to look at the glass ceiling as a series of three levels: apprenticeship, pipeline, and Alice in Wonderland. Although you may not find all three levels in every organization, it would be beneficial to an organization to examine itself with respect to these levels.

Different tools and resources come into play at each level. What works at one level is not necessarily useful at another. For example, on the apprenticeship level one is expected to work long hours, carry out the wishes of others, do work for which others take credit, and generally take abuse that clearly will not be required once the apprenticeship is completed. Unfortunately, this period is also marked with sexual harassment. Sexual harassment combined with a low status in the eyes of fellow employees can be daunting. However, what gets women through this stage is peer support and camaraderie, a sense of humor, skill, and expertise.

The Pipeline level consists of jobs that are post-apprenticeship, or what we call middle management. Because women and minority men make it past this level, there is some question as to whether the glass ceiling really exists at this level. However, the Department of Labor's report, "Report on the Glass Ceiling Initiative," (1990),1 confirms the existence of the glass ceiling at this level. In the Pipeline, one needs to be assertive in behavior in making your accomplishments known. This behavior is different from what women have learned, and certainly different from the accepted behavior during an apprenticeship. Demonstrating credentials for the job is crucial at this stage, as it leads to respect. Seeking a mentor also becomes critical, because mentors will not choose you. You must seek them out. Still another factor clearly showing the existence of a glass ceiling at the pipeline level is a company's use of recruiting services and strategies that discriminate. This results in fewer women being hired for or promoted to senior-level positions.

The third level of the glass ceiling is known as Alice in Wonderland. Due to the paucity of women at this level, women are more isolated. …