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Women in Leadership: Does the Glass Ceiling Still Exist?

1. Introduction
2. The presumable progress of female on top positions
3. The reality: the unsurpassable glass ceiling
4. Conclusion
5. Bibliography

The modern society is often characterized as highly democratic, humanistic and advanced. At the same time, the arguments, concerning the real equality of all people regardless their race, gender, or social position, still persist. In such a situation, the arguments concerning the position of female in the modern society are among the most contradictive since on the one hand, there are people who sincerely believe that women have eventually managed to get an equal position in society compared to men and, at the present days, they have really equal opportunities as men do. On the other hand, there is a totally different view on the position of women in the modern society, according to which the glass ceiling still remains an unsurpassable barrier women regularly face in their life. The latter position is more realistic and corresponds to the actual position of females in the modern society since their leadership is still rather an exception than a norm.
The presumable progress of female on top positions
Obviously, both points of view are grounded on certain reasons which should be analyzed in order to fully reveal the extent to which the belief in the real improvement of the position of women in the modern society and their access to top positions is erroneous.
First of all, it should be said that the fact that women have made a great progress compared to the previous epoch is beyond a doubt. It is really true that females play a significant role in the modern society and they have larger opportunities and formally they have absolutely equal rights compared to men. As a rule, those, who believe that the glass ceiling syndrome has gone and totally vanished from the modern society, stand on the ground that modern women have not only equal rights compared to men but also have wide opportunities to realize their right.
In this respect, it is necessary to agree that nowadays women have really got a chance to receive the same basis for their future professional development and career growth. To put it more precisely, modern women have access to education and have an opportunity to receive higher education of the same quality that men do that is one of the basic conditions of their future perspectives as potential leaders.
Furthermore, it is really an unarguable fact that rights of women and their opportunities are recognized and amply supported by the modern legislation which focuses on the protection of women against any sort of discrimination, including the gender-related discrimination. Moreover, women are not viewed as secondary-class citizens anymore who are supposed to spend all their life taking care about their families, children and household.
However, probably the strongest argument of those, who believe that women have really overcome the glass ceiling syndrome, is the assumption that, nowadays, women are widely represented in practically all spheres of life and, what is more, often they occupy the leading positions. To put it more precisely, it is possible to estimate that many women are quite successful politicians. For instance, nowadays, the perspective of two female-candidates on the next President elections in the US seems to be quite real. Similar trends may be observed in other countries of the world, such as Germany, where the Chancellor, i.e. the head of the government, is a woman, or the UK, which has already experienced the epoch of Margaret Thatcher as the Prime Minister.
Practically, the same situation is estimated to be in economic sphere. The supporters of the belief that the current situation indicates to the end of the epoch of the glass ceiling underline that women may be also fond among CEOs and in boardrooms of the most powerful companies and financial organizations. For instance, a woman is chief executive of the London Stock Exchange and the similar examples may be found in other developed countries, including the US.
In such a way, judging from such a significant penetration of women on top positions in politics and economy, it is really possible to believe that there is no glass ceiling syndrome anymore.
The reality: the unsurpassable glass ceiling
Unfortunately, the reality turns to be quite different from such an optimistic belief. In actuality, the position of women has hardly changed substantially in recent years or even decades. Regardless the seemingly growing presentation of women in politics and economy, in actuality, they still remain underrepresented in a male-dominated society, especially women are missing from top jobs.
Even though women can have a real chance to receive the higher education similarly to men but this does not necessarily mean that they will and actually have the real opportunities to realize the acquired skills, abilities and knowledge in their professional life. To put it more precisely, the recent researchers reveal the fact that 81% of well-qualified women that can occupy top positions face serious barriers engendered by the existing stereotypes and preconceptions (Andrica 1997) which are basically generated by male and accumulated in the society where male ideology is dominating.
Furthermore, researchers also point out that many employers simply feel an aversion to taking a risk by hiring a woman, or not clearly planning their careers or job assignments to benefit them and, what is more, less than 1% of CEOs see the development of high potential of women as a priority (Feldman 1997).
In such a way, it is obvious that the stereotypes and biases still prevent women from an opportunity to occupy top positions in organizations. In this respect, it is even possible to speak about the failure of anti-discrimination legislation, which, being actually good in principle, has turned to be unable to change the stereotypes that have been existing for decades, if not to say centuries.
Moreover, speaking about the wider opportunities of women in relation to their professional careers, it is necessary to underline that top positions still remain hardly accessible to women. In actuality, in spite of the substantial growth of women working in different spheres, including those which were traditionally believed as purely male-dominated, they are still unrepresented on the top level. In other words, even though there is a growing share of female in organizations their perspectives of gaining high or top positions are extremely low. As a result, the share of women among CEOs is extremely low as well. For instance, according to a recent study only 7-9% of senior managers at Fortune 1000 firms are women (Castro 1997). The same may be said about politics where a few women that have access to leading positions while, taken at large, politics still remain the domain of men.
Moreover, the conditions of work and payment are still unequal. It is not a secret that many women can hardly maintain their careers after having children. This is particularly true for women that used to play the leading role in organizations where they occupied top positions. It is also important to underline that pay gaps are also the reality of the modern life since, as a rule, men still have more chances to receive a better paid job, or, what is more, men earn more than women even though they fulfill absolutely the same job. Remarkably, the gap for part-time job is traditionally wider than for the full-time job. As a result, asking for flexible working still spells career death for many women in today’s workplace.
At the same time, it is also worthy of mention another side of the problem of the still progressing glass ceiling. In fact, often specialists, when they speak about the glass ceiling or poor or equal opportunities of women, forget that there are also women from ethnic minorities who, at the present moment, seem to be practically unrepresented among the leaders of organizations, neither in politics nor in business. In fact, the cases when a non-white woman is a CEO, for instance, are very seldom.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that nowadays the glass ceiling syndrome is still a serious problem. In fact, the position of women has not been changed or improved substantially. In stark contrast, the life at the top is still white and male and the arguments in favor of the existence of equal opportunities for men and women seem to be not very convincing. At least statistics perfectly illustrates that women are not only underrepresented at the top positions, but they are also often discriminated and are not considered to be potentially perspective workers. As a result, the current leaders prefer to develop men as future leaders instead of developing women which potential may be equal or even higher than the potential of some men that occupy high positions. Obviously, such a situation cannot remain unchanged and the problem of the glass ceiling still has to be solved in such a way that women can get a real opportunity to fully realize their potential and become leaders.

1. Andrica, Diane. (1997). “The Glass Ceiling: Are you Affected?” Nursing Economics. v15 n3 p162.
2. Castro, Ida L., Furchtgott-Roth, Diana. (1997). “Should Women be Worried About the Glass Ceiling in the Workplace?” Insight on the News. v13 n5 p24.
3. Feldman, Gayle. (1997). “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women Have Had a Long Hard Struggle to Reach Their Current Stutus in the Industry”. Publishers Weekly. v244 n31 p82.
4. Himelstein, Linda. (1997). “Breaking Through”. Business Week. n3514 p64.


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