Glass Ceiling Research

on Friday, 31 August 2012. Posted in Empowerment

ACLW conducted this project in 2001.

The project looked at a number of key American Studies undertaken between 1991 and January 2002 on the Glass Ceiling in America.  Beginning with the Glass Ceiling Commission set up in 1991, that was the starting point of the American investigation into the existence of the Glass Ceiling for women and minorities,  the project covered highlights of the Commission's 2 Reports:

Good for Business: Making Full Use of the Nation's Human Capital

A Solid Investment: Making Full Use of the Nation's Human Capital

After touching on the 1992 Chicago Area Partnerships ( CAPS) Report,  Pathways and Progress: Corporate Best Practices to Shatter the Glass Ceiling,  the Section then movedts focus to the 1998 landmark study, Diversity in the Executive Suite written by Korn/Ferry, Columbia Business School and the Duran Group followed by  What Women Want in Business, a  study released on 4 October 2001 in Los Angeles also by Korn/Ferry International, the Eugene M. Lang  Center for  Entrepreneurship Columbia Business School and the Duran Group.

The Section presented the most recent statistics available at that time of Women in Corporate America and the 28th Annual Board of Directors Study. It concluded by exploring the most Report released on 24 January 2002 entitled, A New Look through the Glass Ceiling: Where are the Women? commissioned by USA House of Representatives, John Dingell and Carolyn Maloney.  

Central Themes reviewed:

  • Defining what the Glass Ceiling is:

In the Glass Ceiling Commission's first Report, the Glass Ceiling research revealed that there are three levels of artificial barriers to the advancement of minorities and women in the private sector that contradicted the American ethos that education, training, dedication, and hard work will lead to a better life.

The three levels of artificial barriers were:

Societal Barriers which may be outside the direct control of business minorities and women from the top levels of management. 

Internal Structural Barriers within the direct control of business

Governmental Barriers

The Commission defined each of these levels as comprising a number of obstacles that minorities and women encountered in the private sector.  In doing so, the Commission presented the Glass Ceiling as a concept that housed numerous barriers that women and minorities faced with a scope that was extremely broad in range. It included barriers such as lack of educational opportunity, stereotyping, prejudice, and bias related to gender, race, and ethnicity, biased recruitment practices, alienating corporate climates, lack of mentoring, management training, special or different standards for performance evaluation, counterproductive behaviour and harassment by colleagues and lack of vigorous, consistent monitoring and law enforcement by government.

  • Identifying how the Glass Ceiling can be dismantled:

The Glass Ceiling Commission's first Report in 1995, Good for Business: Making Full Use of the Nation's Human Capital identified common characteristics in its analysis of the companies that successfully managed the glass ceiling barrier through initiatives that included having CEO support, being part of the strategic business plan, being specific to the organization, being race inclusive, addressing preconceptions and stereo-types and emphasizing and requiring accountability up and down the line.

The Glass Ceiling Commission's second and final Report of 1995 A Solid Investment: Making Full Use of the Nation's Human Capital specifically identified 12 ways to shatter the Glass Ceiling. It included:

Demonstrate CEO commitment, Include diversity in all strategic business plans and hold line managers accountable for progress, Use affirmative action as a tool, Select, promote and retain qualified individuals, Prepare minorities and women for senior positions, Educate the corporate ranks, Initiate work/life and family-friendly policies, Adopt high performance work-place practices, For Government to Lead by example, Improve data collection and Strengthen enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and Increase disclosure of diversity data.

Further evidence of practices that worked to eliminate the Glass Ceiling is apparent in the 1992  Chicago Area Partnerships ( CAPS) Report,  Pathways and Progress: Corporate Best Practices to Shatter the Glass Ceiling. CAPS comprising community, government and corporate representatives, created a forum to discuss and provide leadership on workplace issues highlighting eight companies that demonstrated "best practices" programs for eliminating the glass ceiling.

In 1998 a landmark study, Diversity in the Executive Suite written by Korn/Ferry, Columbia Business School and the Duran Group questioned  how to attract, retain, and develop top-level minority talent.  It analysed the experiences of women who have left large corporate environments to start their own businesses or to work for a small business in the field of technology. What factors explain why so many women have made these career decisions? What qualities of ownership or small business appeal to these women? What can large companies do to retain their best female talent? How can the experiences of these women help others who are considering making a similar move?  Simply, this study queried this under-voiced group by finding out how and what that minority talent thinks, believes, and has experienced.  

A series of Recommendations were made for those who were "upwardly mobile" professionals. They included: the importance of building good relationships with superiors; getting yearly and specific feedback on job performance and career goals; finding an advocate for your upward mobility within the organization; Identifying informal rules and learn to navigate through the organization; building self-management skills and Undertaking further postgraduate education.

Furthermore out of this study came a series of Recommendations for Organisations, Business Schools and Career Counsellors. The Diversity Study’s key finding was the need to instil a people mindset at all levels of the organization, along with programs to identify, mentor and develop people to their full potential—regardless of gender or ethnicity.  

  • Is the Glass Ceiling being dismantled in America? 

No, it is not according to the Report, A New Look through the Glass Ceiling: Where are the Women? 

On 24 January 2002, USA House of Representatives John Dingell and Carolyn Maloney released this  Report based on a study they commissioned from the General Accounting Office assessing the status of women in ten selected industries: Communications, Public Administration, Business and Repair Services, Entertainment and Recreation Services, Other Professional Services, Educational Services, Retail Trade, Finance, Insurance and Real Estate, Hospitals and Medical Services, and Professional Medical Services.  

The report demonstrated that women are under-represented in senior management positions in virtually every professional field.  And although women have made steady improvements in the workplace as a whole, earning 76 cents for every dollar that a man takes home, the data clearly show that progress is stalled for women in management positions.  In short, the glass ceiling has hardened, rather than shattered, since 1995.   One of the most startling revelations from the new congressional report is that between 1995 and 2000, the wage gap widened between most female and male managers.

The project also presented current statistics of women in Corporate America as well as a link to the 1997 annual status report,  Catalyst Census of Women Board Directors of the Fortune 500.

  • How women can empower themselves to break through the Glass Ceiling and aim to become a Board Director 

The 28th Annual Board of Directors Study, based on a survey of more than 1000 Directors of Fortune-listed companies incorporates the responses of experienced women directors whose longest average tenure on a corporate board is 8 years. This Study was not only significant in presenting a summative statistical profile of women directors in terms of their assets, performance and self-evaluation, but also in featuring the advice given by some of the respondents to women who want to be directors of public companies.

  • How women can empower themselves to ignore the Glass Ceiling and break new ground

On 4 October 2001 What Women Want in Business, was also released in Los Angeles by Korn/Ferry International, the Eugene M. Lang  Center for  Entrepreneurship Columbia Business School and the Duran Group. The study contradicted many of the myths about why women leave Corporate America to start or work for a small business. "Bucking conventional wisdom, professional growth, power and money were the big drivers in influencing women to leave corporate jobs in the past five years—not the glass ceiling, balance or personal life," according to Caroline Nahas, Managing Director at Korn/Ferry International. 

The Study found that the women studied had "strong desires to pioneer a new business territory and to control the upstream processes of innovation, that is, to generate an idea, validate it, develop and launch it, and then exploit and learn from the impact. Women with children saw entrepreneurship as an opportunity to blend their family interests and obligations with their needs to implement their creative ideas. They showed a desire to follow their business ideas and although they had learned valuable skills from their experiences in the corporate world, they did not see the large corporate environment as the best place for them to pursue these opportunities. Instead, they preferred to apply what they had learned from their previous corporate experiences and pursue new career paths. 

Seventy-eight percent of the 425 women in the study pointed to the opportunity to take risks with new ideas and test personal limits as the chief reason for leaving jobs with large companies to move into smaller, entrepreneurial businesses, reports Dr. Anna Duran of the Duran Group, a New York-based consulting firm. The chance to make more money influenced 67 percent to move, while the ability to impact strategy was the third major reason, cited by 65 percent. "Only 41 percent listed more time for family/personal interests as a deciding factor," she added.

Companies are making strides in eliminating the glass ceiling, but there is room for improvement, according to Professor Ann Bartel, director of the Human Resource Management Program at Columbia Business School. "Fifty percent of women who left corporate jobs in 1994 or earlier said the glass ceiling was an issue while only 36 percent of those who left after 1997 did so," she notes. Underscoring this finding, women younger than 40-years-old were motivated to make a change primarily to accumulate wealth and impact strategy, whereas those 40-years-old or older believed they had peaked on the corporate ladder and needed to move in order to advance."

Korn/Ferry proposed that "large corporations may eventually need to create joint alliances with these businesses. Women entrepreneurs and women who work in small businesses —especially those in the technology-related areas —are essential ingredients of the new economy."