Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Spirituality as a Vehicle for Passing through the Stained Glass Ceiling: Perspectives on African American Women's Leadership in US Organizations

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Spirituality as a Vehicle for Passing through the Stained Glass Ceiling: Perspectives on African American Women's Leadership in US Organizations

Article excerpt

Abstract

The glass ceiling describes the effect that accounts for the discrepancy between numbers of men and women and ethnic minorities in organizational leadership positions. The authors begin by exploring the evolution of leadership thought and then specifically focus on gender and leadership in organizations. Role congruity theory is used as a vehicle for analyzing genderized characterizations of leadership and ensuing glass-ceiling effects. Because effective leadership is contextually and culturally dependent, a discourse on the interaction of leadership, gender, race, and ethnicity follows. Specifically, leadership from the perspective of African American women in US institutions is addressed with the purpose of finding a general framework for analysis. The focus of the discussion shifts to spirituality in organizations and the possibility of leveraging spirituality as a vehicle for creating passages through the stained glass ceiling.

Introduction

Less than 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies are managed by women (Rowley 2010) and black women hold a meager one percent of corporate officer positions (Stanley 2009) indicating a lack of female organizational leaders and particularly of Black female organizational leaders. Despite legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its 1991 amendments, which have been successful in removing some of the barriers against upward mobility of women in organizations, it has been estimated that at the current rate of progress it will take approximately 47 years for women to achieve equivalent levels of leadership participation in corporate America (Catalyst 2007). Discrepancies also exist among various groups of women. According to Catalyst (2006), women occupy 14.7 % of board seats of Fortune 500 companies. Of those, white women held 79% of the seats and women of color held 21 % Given the significant gap in the leadership positions held by white women compared to black women, we posit that it will take black women much longer than white women to attain equality with white men. Clearly, one may argue that the current models have limited effectiveness and that there is a need for exploring other strategies for breaking through the glass ceiling, particularly for women of color. In this paper, the authors argue that, rather than creating new models, the current theoretical perspectives need to be expanded to take into consideration the differences between women, rather than assuming that all women are the same. While we are not the first to make this claim (Ayman and Korabik 2010; Sanchez-Hucles and Davis 2010), we reexamine and expand on their discussions as well as offer additional solutions.

The glass ceiling describes the effect that accounts for the discrepancy between numbers of men and women and ethnic minorities in organizational leadership positions. Although the metaphor has been in use since the 1990s (Ayman and Korabik 2010), barriers still exist to the ascent of women to leadership positions in organizations. The authors begin by exploring the evolution of leadership thought and then specifically focus on gender and leadership in organizations.

Role congruity theory (Eagly and Karau 2002) is then used as a vehicle for analyzing genderized characterizations of leadership and ensuing glass-ceiling effects. Because effective leadership is contextually and culturally dependent, a discourse on the interaction of leadership, gender, race, and ethnicity follows. Specifically, leadership from the perspective of African American women in US institutions is addressed with the purpose of finding a general framework for analysis. A recurrent theme that appeared in reviewing the literature was one of spirituality in corporate and other non-religious settings. As such, the focus of the discussion shifts to spirituality in organizations and the possibility of leveraging spirituality as a vehicle for creating passages through the stained glass ceiling. …

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