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The Glass Ceiling: It can't be shattered if it doesn't exist
December 17, 2002
by Lindsay McNutt

"I am woman hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore. And I know too much to go an' pretending cause I've heard it all before and I've been down there on the floor. No one's ever going to keep me down again."

For a group that would never be kept down again, they are fully embracing the idea of the glass ceiling. Women who boast the pride of their feminist views are fast to use the glass ceiling or gender gap idea in order to explain why they can't get jobs or move ahead based on their own personal merit. The glass ceiling and gender gap ideas can not ever be tried theories because they do not exist.

The idea of a glass ceiling that oppresses women is absurd for many reasons. Supporters of this idea say, glass is clear so those forced under this ceiling would probably not even notice, at first, they were under such a restriction. But, if they tried to go through the glass, they would see quickly that the ceiling prohibited any rise to higher levels. This analogy is their only defense offered as to why the ceiling exists. Supporters say that it is a clear case of discrimination, which can only be resolved through affirmative action. Therefore, they are justified by using immoral and unfair tactics, such as denying a higher qualified person admission into college, in order to attain their allegedly constructive goals.

The concept of the glass ceiling really came to the forefront in 1987 and it was a political issue. It made the democratic platform more personal. But, as is typical in politics, the spin doctors took control and have been making a big to-do about it ever since. There are a few basic facts to recognize. In the late 1980's not many women over 40 had a college education and even less had a master degree in the area of business. On top of that, these women did not have corporate maturity or experience to be top level executives. Unfortunately for these corporate women, they were thrust into jobs they were not prepared for because organizations like the National Organization for Women and The Feminist Majority Foundation. They demanded 50-50 representation in all occupations, therefore forcing better-qualified men to look for jobs elsewhere. Men were more qualified in education and experience by a10:1 ratio over women. Luckily men and women have reached a reasonable balance of power in most corporations and, "It will continue to result in a huge advantage for the United States in global competition, because our society will remain far ahead of other major industrialized nations in selecting the best people, whether male of female, to lead its industrial enterprises. Obviously, these women did not hit the glass ceiling.

A study conducted by the AFL-CIO and the Institute for Women's Policy Research found that women 50 and older who are still active in the work place earn $.74 for every dollar that a man makes doing the same job. What the study results don't tell is that these women had little or no college education whereas the men had college diplomas. Also, the study defined "same job" as only part time or full time work. Credible research would take into account demographics including age, education, experience and occupation.

The Glass Ceiling Commission was set up to break down the "barriers resulting from institutional and psychological practices, and limit the advancement and mobility opportunities of women." They work to identify the glass ceiling and promote advancement and employment opportunities for women in order to place them in occupations of responsibility. So, in other words people who are more qualified and educated for a specific job might be denied that because a "repressed" woman applied for the same job. This not only happens in the work place, but in social and education settings too.

While the commission felt they had the right to try to attempt to place women in these executive positions, they did not bother trying to find why this occurred. "The Fact-Finding Report of the Glass Ceiling Commission was a report of the perceptions of women in the workplace, and did not attempt to connect the presence of high-ranking women executives to profitability for their corporations. Furchtgott-Roth and Stolba provided a guide to the economic progress of women and, since 1985, the advocacy group Catalyst has issued over 30 excellent research reports on various aspects of progress for women, but none of them have addressed the issue of profitability with empirical evidence."

Affirmative action is the love child of the glass ceiling and gender gap ideals. "Lots of young women who come out of college and enter the workforce feel like they're equal. Then they notice young men speeding ahead of them or they face sex discrimination or run up against the glass ceiling." said Loretta Kane, Vice President of Action at the National Organization for Women. This is her argument that affirmative action should be interjected in workplace settings. In essence, what she is saying is that these women who lag behind their male counterparts shouldn't feel the compulsion to work harder; they should have it handed to them on a silver plate. They should be given special treatment because they are women. When affirmative action was created, a respectable goal was in mind, which was recognition of equality under the law. To the chagrin of those who lobbied for it, it now embodies the idea of desiring equality of opportunity. Better yet, it is not affirmative actions job to monitor the ethical choices of business owners. If they choose to be sexist or racist, then that is their right. Affirmative action attempts to curtail violations of property rights. Governmental function is not to promise ethical choices, but to make sure no one's rights are infringed upon.

Furthermore, Christine Stolba, author of "Women's Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economic Progress of Women in America" feels that women have come far enough and that affirmative action is no longer necessary. She also believes that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is enough to ensure that discrimination is never a factor is employment issues. Her main concern though is," Affirmative action undermines women's sense of self-worth. It has the effect of making women question their own success and other people questioning their success if they think they're just getting a leg up."

Currently, women make up 46% of the labor force, have raised their salary by $.15 in three decades and 37% of U.S. businesses are operated and owned by women. Also, out of all the taxpayer funded contracts that were given out, 5% of them went to women owned business. This is up from 2.4% in just five years. Obviously the glass ceiling has not stopped these women from succeeding in their business endeavors.

Does prejudice exist? Should affirmative action continue to be standard by which women rely on for a job? Or did it ever occur to anyone that maybe these women accept these standards because of American society? There are feminist who say that this glass ceiling and under-representation of women is because of a conscious coup to keep women out of executive offices. The more logical critics think that it's a sub-conscious prejudice that is introduced by our patriarchal society. Being a CEO or holding other executive offices requires a lot of responsibility, time away from home and takes presdence in the life of that individual. In American society, men are more willing to commit themselves to the meticulous schedule required by this job. There is a depressingly low number of women who apply for these jobs, so even if there were no prejudice, the result we see today would be duplicated. For example, nursing is traditionally a female dominated profession. Nurses have the potential to earn a tremendous amount of money if they work full time. Yet, many of these women voluntarily look for and take part-time positions. This not only lowers the average income earned by these women, but it also cuts the full-time job opportunity for nurses in half. Why? They want to raise their children, enjoy leisure activities or prefer for their husbands to work full time.

On the whole, because of the way the corporate world works, women are at a disadvantage. Males are almost inborn with the team spirit attitude and the military chain of command ideals. Also, women work less total hours than men, work fewer years, have less experience, and avoid dangerous jobs that accumulate a higher salary. There are feminist who focus on wages and promotions as the measure of how successful women are in society. They don't realize that there are women who are happy being homemakers and the economic importance of being a homemaker. If the acknowledged this, it would undermine the whole mission of their cause, which is to prove that women are forced to be homemakers because they can't land jobs in corporate America.

There are women who have accepted this role in American society. While they believe in the glass ceiling concept, they don't fully embrace the idea of it. They realize that in some degree, they are the substantive impetus. "The lack of progress in breaking through the glass ceiling was both frustrating and disillusioning. I wondered why women are finding it so difficult to move into the executive suite. Was it simply the result of individual prejudice on the part of male executives? Was it due to organizational obstacles women have yet to overcome? Or, are the basic personality characteristics and leadership styles of women managers contributing to their lack of movement to the top? We have valuable lessons to teach each other, talents from which we can mutually learn and grow. Competitiveness in the global marketplace depends on our collective ability to get the right people, with the right talent, on the right bus, headed in the right direction. We can no longer afford to leave half of our human assets at the station." This applies to both men and women. Neither group should be ignored.

There will always be prejudice in business, education and society. But, there is no reason to dream up these male-led conspiracies that are aimed at denying women chances for advancement. Because our society is imperfect, there will always be discrimination. But, those businesses that continue to hire only "home-town boys" will eventually find themselves at a huge disadvantage because their rivals promote the competent females who do the same work. What's most important though is that no right exists to a job or college. Affirmative action abhors this basic fact. Proponents want women to sue, lobby and protest what they perceive as discrimination. "The proper avenue for victims of prejudice is to respect the very rights which protect them: to seek change by persuasion, education and argument; by working harder and by utilizing non-violent means for a noble end." Other options include create a business where women executives are welcomed. The use of force, the tactic so well used by the feminist groups such as NOW, is always wrong. Prejudice grows stronger only when the "well-intentioned" individuals who are against it, use the very same tactics themselves.

Dr. Pamela Edwards addressed the gender gap as concurring with a generation gap, which began in the 1960's. She felt though both genders shared similarities in the generation gap, there were specific differences between the roles they were keyed to play. According to Dr. Edwards, "Both genders rejected their parents, criticized materialism, criticized parent's world view, feared nuclear detonation, denounced anti-communism and condemned racism and poverty." Males or sons, "rejected adult society, still wanted fatherhood and marriage and found success in their chosen career path." Females or daughters, on the other hand feared, "claustrophobic marriage, coercive motherhood, constrained chastity and a personal experience with the feminine mystique. They feared being an ordinary housewife which fueled the gender gap. If this was true, women fearing marriage and forced motherhood, then why there was a "baby bridge" in the 1970's when these sons and daughters became of the age to marry and have children? These are also the people who were the model yuppies and were the Regan supporters.

Today's women are subjected to the same language that today's feminist were in their impressionable years. The difference is that today, there are facts to prove that the gender gap really is just a non-existent excuse for one's lacking of personal merit. While the popular belief is still that women are restrained by a glass ceiling, a new study proves that women are not systematically discriminated against in the workforce. Women earn 95% to 98% as much as men when all the demographic characteristics are the same. From 1987 to 1992 the amount of women in business increased 43%. Out of those who are earning their associate, bachelor or masters degree, the large majority is women and 40% of doctorial candidates are female. "The number of women in law school has risen dramatically in the last 30 years—from 8 percent in 1970, to 49.4 percent in the fall of 2000, and as of March 2001, the number of women applying to law schools surpassed men. In the country's most selective law schools, including Yale, Columbia and New York University, women have already passed the 50 percent mark. As the number of women with law degree increases, women will be able to move into upper-level, higher-power positions in business and politics and the justice system." In the last 10 years, the number of females in executive offices doubled. It can be safely determined that women no longer need affirmative action.

The women of today are also subject to fall slave to the practice that so many women do, they take no interest in politics. While the women may vote, they are not educated as to what the issues really are. Politics does offer a wide selection of how you choose to vote, but there is a pattern. "There is a gender gap in presidential voting that can be linked to differences in men and women's policy preferences. There is no question that, in general, women are more likely than men to favor activist government, the sort of agenda traditionally associated with the Democratic Party. But excessive attention to these gender differences obscures important political differences between women. Women's disproportionate support for Clinton and the Democratic Party in 1996 was driven by certain groups of economically vulnerable and socially liberal women, while Dole drew upon upscale and socially conservative women." But, even that can't be generalized to the population as a whole. In recent years the number of women in the Republican Party has been increasing because women from all walk of life are taking the platform to heart and voting in that pattern. "Religious, pro-life, and other conservatives who wrote a check to Los Angeles NOW because it was the right thing to do changed me. It was then I realized, although we disagreed on many issues, there were fundamental questions about values that truly separated conservatives from postmodern liberals. For me, that finally exposed by counterpoint the soulnessness of the Left."

The common misconception is that women typically vote democratically because they carry and promote the image of being the woman's party, because they are pro-choice and support welfare, along with other issues. "Similarly, the gender gap is a story designed to convey the idea that a "women's vote" exists in American politics. Bonk (1988) clearly documents that the term "gender gap" was a deliberate creation of the leaders of the women's movement and forcefully "sold" in "an intensive and continuous effort to give reporters information and documentation on the women's vote" (90). But like other gender stories, the gender gap also conceals important political differences between women. It is true that there was a substantial "gender gap" in presidential voting in the 1996 election, with women casting their votes for Clinton in significantly greater numbers than men. But I would argue that it is certain groups of women that drive the gender gap, rather than "women" as a group." It is a perpetuated image. None the less, women are a large part of the voting arena, and the idea of a gender gap in voting can really hurt and endanger women's voting decisions. "At the most basic level, since women now comprise 54 percent of the electorate, all candidates, male or female, must compete for women's votes and take care not to alienate them. A gender gap may not be stable or robust, but the fact that a gender gap can emerge at all gives women voter's new clout. As one political consultant put it, "Any candidate down ten points with women has to worry."

In reality, the idea of the glass ceiling and gender gap are the concepts those like Gloria Stein and Betty Freidan. "Women of today do not have time to deal with the fictional idea of an invisible barrier preventing them from excelling in corporate America. "Many women now in the business mainstream have little or no interest in activist groups such as the National Organization for Women. N.O.W. pursued largely left-of-center political and social agendas in the past, but critics say its goals have now become irrelevant. The big concerns at their recent national convention were pushing the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin, bashing the Christian men's group Promise Keepers, and pushing for the rights of "transgender people," which could be anything from hermaphrodites to people waiting for sex change operations."

The Feminist groups, such as now and the Feminist Majority Foundation have even gone as far as to blame Barbie for perpetuating and expanding the glass ceiling and gender gap. "The doll has long been a touchstone in the wars over body politics. She was built to the dimensions of a male fantasy, and then sold to little girls eager to grow up and emulate her. Consequently, she has drawn the ire of two generations of feminists who, despite Barbie's reincarnations as a doctor, astronaut and presidential candidate, have blamed the doll for everything from anorexia to a plummeting of girls' self-esteem." Their resorting to such absurd tactics shows they realize that not only is their grip slipping on the remaining feminist, but that they are becoming unable to convert the younger generation of girls. Another tactic used to convert these girls was their ascertaination that Jane Austen was a lesbian. But, "Unfortunately for the feminists, Jane Austen is neither a lightweight prisoner of her benighted times nor a deliciously devious mole bent on undermining her social system." Basically, any tactic they can use to indoctrinate women with their ideas is not beyond them.

"I am woman watch me grow. See me standing toe to toe, as I spread my lovin' arms across the land. But I'm still an embryo, with a long, long way to go until I make my brother understand. ... Oh I am woman. I am invincible. I am strong."

They have made their brother understand. Women have been accepted into the job market, college educational settings and as vital parts of society. The only glass ceiling that might have existed before was one that women had put up themselves by measures like affirmative action and extreme feminist groups. The only way to break the glass ceiling is keep striking harder and harder, but you have to strike with the fragments of the extreme groups that need to be dismantled.

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