You are on page 1of 6

Q1. Examine the concepts glass ceiling and glass walls.

How do these reflect the interactions between organisational culture and gendered division of labour at most workplaces today? [50] The new millennium provides an occasion to celebrate the remarkable progress made by women. That women now hold seats on corporate boards, run major companies, and are regularly featured on the covers of business magazines as prominent leaders and power brokers would have been unimaginable even a half century ago. But the truth is, women at the highest levels of business are still rare. All across the world, women in leadership positions are hampered by numerous obstacles, including pervasive and often subtle attitudes and beliefs that women are unequal to men at home, at work and in government. This has tended to influence the organisational culture and gendered division of labour at most workplaces. In trying to explain these, the terms glass ceiling and glass walls were coined which best explains the challe nging journey women have in their bid to reach the top in an organisation. These concepts are as demystified in this essay. Gender can be defined as a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females, particularly in the cases of men and women and the masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity. Division of labour is the specialization of cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed tasks and like roles. Organizational culture is the collective behaviour of people that are part of an organization, it is also formed by the organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems, and symbols, it includes beliefs and habits and it affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders. Organisational culture can be without a gendered perspective defined as a pattern of basic assumptions - invented, discovered or developed by a given group as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems (Schein 1995, 25). The glass ceiling metaphor is the invisible barrier that women experience in their upward carrier mobility which prevents them from reaching the top of an organisation. The few women that succeeded in breaking the glass ceiling often arrive in a token position. A case in point, in the ZRP for example, was the promotion of Commissioner Josephine Shambare (female officer) to become a Deputy Commissioner General due to the replacement of the late Deputy Commissioner Barbra Mandizha (female officer). This shows that, that position had been placed in fulfillment of organisational policy (token position). Persons in leadership positions who belong to a minority group, are looked at as representing the whole of (stereotypes ascribed to) the minority group. Spercific personal competencies, characteristics and activities are relegated to the background. The presupposed male/female stereotypes dominate the relationships. According to Marrison, White and Van Velson(1987), the glass ceiling is the metaphor which refers to the notion that prevents women from reaching the top of an organisation and is often associated with the laborious promotion of women to the highest levels in an organisation or company, the so-called senior positions or executive managers. Legal measures and affirmative action can stimulate the process of

womens achieving more middle management positions, but these middle management positions are often characterized by limited authority and relatively low wages. For this reasons as well, a number of talented women leave big companies and move into smaller companies or start their own. It is clear that measures to stimulate the inflow of women into organisations and companies do not guarantee that women will move on to higher positions, decision-making positions or policy-making positions. The concept of glass ceiling is not exclusively used in reference to womens experiences, but also to visualize career barriers for minorities. The building blocks for the glass ceiling may be sometimes being linked to the prejudices of male colleagues with respect to womens leadership qualities are given as the main cause. In terms of substance, these prejudices can be very heterogeneous in nature. Some prejudices refer to the stereotypical characteristics ascribed to women, such as emotionalism or limited stress resistance. Others argue from womens labour market position and figure that women will change jobs more easily or leave the labour market if there is no economic necessity for female professional labour. According to this logic, each investment to enhance the professional competence of female workers is a risk investment since people are generally convinced that women will leave the business or the organisation more easily than men. A third type of prejudice reasons from the specific job expectations with respect to a manager or an executive: women are said to be less willing to travel; and neither male nor female employees are said to be willing to work under a female boss. Other building blocks for the glass ceiling include; traditional forms of labour, with an emphasis on fulltime work; the isolation of women among mostly male colleagues; a shortage of female role models; the exclusion of women from the (fraternal) networks of male colleagues; fewer educational and training opportunities at the workplace; women being regarded as threats by male colleagues; repeated reference to cultural differences between male and female styles of thinking and acting; womens self-perception and their lack of faith in their personal capabilities; womens vulnerability in terms of economic recession. From the above exposition, it is clear that the glass ceiling is composed of complex factors that reinforce and influence one another. An argument by Meyerson D.B. and Fletcher J.K. (1999), situates the causes of the glass ceiling in the organisational structure, the organisational culture, and the unequal opportunities women are given within them. Structural elements, such as decision making and recruitment procedures, are often described and, consequently, can easily be charted. But even then, hidden elements may play a role. The culture of an organisation is far more difficult to portray or put into words. Self-selection, the prior decision not to be professionally active in certain sectors because of the prevalent male business culture, increases the chances of survival of this strongly masculine organisational culture. Women more often than men put the emphasis on elements of organisational structure and culture as an explanation for the limited opportunities for upward mobility, whereas men more often refer to self-selection in women. A more balanced upward mobility of women into higher management positions can be advocated on the basis of various arguments; first, there is a principle of justice: on the basis ethical arguments, equal opportunity is a necessity. Another series of arguments reasons from scarcity in the labour market. In
1

times demographic ageing and relatively low unemployment, it does not make sense to offer opportunities for only one segment of potentially higher educated employees. Effective leadership needs qualities that are stereotypically inclined to femininity (for example, communicative ability, attention to individual employees, positive feedback) including those that are linked to masculinity (for example, ambition, stamina, businesslike attitude and decisiveness). A balanced diet of both these is enough to set the notion of equality in motion. Glass ceiling is invisible and artificial barriers that militate against womens access to top decision making and managerial positions, arising chiefly from a persistent masculine bias in organizational culture. It is a prime example of discrimination against women at work through vertical segregation by sex. Although a few women have made it to the very top in the world of work, this phenomenon is still very prevalent in all but a handful of countries despite womens increased levels of qualificat ions, employability and work performance. The glass ceiling has proved resistant to affirmative action, sensitization of senior managers and human resources staff, measures to promote work family balance and a broad recognition that investing in the talents and qualities of both women and men at all organizational levels makes good business sense. The glass ceiling exists because; womens career paths tend to be more circuitous and interrupted than those of men which are typically linear, and this impedes womens progress to top positions; top posts tend to be characterized by masculine values of aggressiveness and suitability for them is decided mostly according to male criteria; women are primarily placed in nonstrategic sectors rather than in the so-called line positions that involve financial decision-making or revenue generating responsibilities, positions that are critical for advancement to the top; women have less access to training and career development activities; women workers still bear more of the main burden of family responsibilities than men and so have less time for the extracurricular formal and informal networking essential for advancement in enterprises. Womens rarity in top positions highlights the influence of the structures (constraints), such as the social or organizational context or the inequality of the roles in the family. This is considered crucial in the lives of women and men as it is not possible to isolate the subjective preferences of people from the social structure of preferences (Ciancanelli, 1998; Hooks, 1998; Walby, 1990, 1997; Welsh, 1992). Moreover, gender stereotypes make it difficult for people to assume roles beyond what is prescribed for them (Adams and Harte, 1998; Hull and Umansky, 1997; Crompton, 1987). As shown by Walby (1997), the existing gender inequality in the private sphere of the home is central to the understanding of workplace inequality as these spheres are strongly interconnected. One of the more enduring stereotypes in the workplace is that concerning motherhood. Maternity, as associated with family and womens roles in the private sphere is perceived by organizations as signaling a lack of commitment ( Maupin, 1993; Hooks and Cheramy, 1994; Windsor and Auyeung, 2006). In France, though women go back to work after maternity leave, and continue working in important numbers even after having had two or more children, pregnancy and motherhood are often penalized by audit firms (Dambrin and Lambert, 2008). The metaphor of the glass ceiling has been extended to apply to other areas of vertical and horizontal occupational segregation, such as glass walls (concentration of women in certain sectors, women unable
2

to jump the gap between secretarial/administrative and managerial functions regardless of their educational attainments or experience) and the sticky floor (women trapped in the lowest -paid jobs or on the bottom rungs of their occupation and unable to rise above the poverty line). [Human Resources Development, (2004:195)] Not only company life, but civil service was analysed in a search for invisible barriers that limit the promotion possibilities of women. All societal sectors were subjected to a glass ceiling analysis; political life, education service industries, and churches. It was also discovered that not only is reaching of the top level ranks which is difficult for the women but also deep down on the lower ranks. This is what was termed glass walls. This metaphor indicates that, in the career of employees, some events or factors function as mechanisms of retardation. An example, two employees a woman and a man equally qualified and at the same level of seniority. Each absence due to pregnancy or giving birth can retard the career possibilities of the female employee, while the male employee is continuously present in the organisation or company and can keep all his options open and intensify collegial contacts and go on networking

In todays society, individuals are increasingly, forced to negotiate lifestyle choices among a diver sity of options (Giddens, 1991: 5). Yet, the existence of a plurality of choices does not mean that all choices are open to everybody or that people make all their decisions in full realisation of all available alternatives. Giddens repeatedly underlines the limited character of the reflexive monitoring which an individual may exert upon his/her actions. Nevertheless, the agents capacity to be reflexive and to make conscious choices is not punctual, in relation to a particular event, but rather in relation to a stream of social acts and interactions (Macintosh and Scapens, 1990). As the knowledge ability of human agents is always limited, their actions may have unintended and unwanted consequences, which retroactively may become unacknowledged conditions of future actions (Giddens, 1984: 76). Thus, even if an individual is given genuine opportunities to choose freely the degree of implication in work, her actions may have unintended consequences of which she is unaware when carrying them out. These consequences become conditions of future actions in the sense that an individuals life has to be understood in its continuity since actions and decisions are not isolated, but that a sequence of actions forms a trajectory However, despite the challenges brought about by the concept of the glass ceiling and the glass walls, a growing proportion of women are breaking through. Women who have entered into leadership positions attribute their success to factors such as access to education and work opportunities, good mentoring by both men and women, support from family, employers, supervisors, teachers and colleagues, and successful lobbying by gender activists. Typical examples includes, the Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who was Africas first elected female head of state, a former World Bank economist and UN official; South Africas first female deputy president, Phumzile Gloria Mlambo-Ngcuka; appointment of Her Excellency, Joice Banda who recently became the President of the Republic of Malawi. In Zimbabwe we have Joice Teurai Ropa Mujuru as the Vice President and she has proved that women are able as she is the first Vice President in our country. Gender activists are increasingly setting their sights on getting more women into high office in international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Out of all policymaking areas, women are least
3

represented in economics and finance, notes the Womens Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), an international womens lobby group. Clearly, eliminating sex discrimination by law will naturally weaken the glass ceiling and the glass wall. The following specific practical strategies may also help: enhancing senior managers awareness of obligations and rights related to gender equality; affirmative action, mentoring and monitoring for women; placing more women in strategic sectors and positions that provide them with good career prospects; increasing and refining workfamily balance measures to enable both parents to combine family and career more harmoniously; improving womens access to training, in particular in technical and management fields and in business skills and enterprise development to help them run their own businesses; fostering the creation of womens formal and informal work and business related networks; reviewing human resource development practices so as to recognize the potential value of nonconventional career paths and facilitate womens access to managerial positions; sensitizing policy-makers and employers to gender equality issues so that they contribute to creating a gender-equitable organizational culture and socio-economic environment. In conclusion, as evidenced by the above expositions, the glass ceiling is the prime example of discrimination against women at work through vertical segregation by sex. On the other side glass walls is the concentration of women in certain sectors, whereby women are unable to jump the gap between secretarial/administrative and managerial functions regardless of their educational attainments or experience. These metaphors which bring to light the discrimination of women in certain fields of work which are essential for their vertical and horizontal progression. Lastly, the two concepts also affect the interaction of people at workplace to a greater extent including the gendered division of labour seen at workplaces today.

REFERENCE 1. Meyerson D.B. and Fletcher J.K. (1999), A Modest Manifesto for Shattering the Glass Ceiling, Article number R00107, Zurich: Zurich Publishers.

2. Schein. E. H. and Lewin. K (1995) Change theory in the field and in the classroom: Notes toward a model of managed learning (74 paragraphs). Retrieved March 20, 2002 from http://www.solne.org/res/wp/10006.html 3. Marrison, White and Van Velson (1987) Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Can Women Reach the Top of America's Largest Corporations?
4. Hooks (1998) The Rhetorics of Feminism: Readings in Contemporary Cultural Theory. Volume

32 Issue 38, pp 456-467 5. Hull and Umansky (1997) Gender in Management: An International Journal, Volume 24 Issue 8, pp. 621-645 6. Kathryn Haynes, (2008) "Power and politics in gender research: a research note from the discipline of accounting", Gender in Management: An International Journal, Vol. 23 Issue: 7, pp.528 - 532