The “glass ceiling” metaphor represents the frustration experienced by women in the 1980s and 1990s who entered the workforce in large numbers following equal opportunity legislation that gave them greater access to education and employment. After initial success in attaining lower management positions, the women found their career progress slowing as they reached higher levels of their organizations. A formal definition of the glass ceiling specifies that a female disadvantage in promotion should accelerate at the highest levels of the organization, and researchers adopting this formal definition have found mixed evidence for glass ceilings across organizations and across countries. Researchers who have expanded the glass ceiling definition to encompass racial minorities have similarly found mixed results. However, these mixed results do not detract from the metaphor’s value in highlighting the stereotype-based practices that embed discrimination deep within organizational structures and understanding why women continue to be underrepresented in senior organizational roles around the world. In particular, researchers investigating the glass ceiling have identified a variety of obstacles (including glass cliffs, glass walls, and glass doors) that create a more complete understanding of the barriers that women experience in their careers. As organizations offer shorter job ladders and less job security, the career patterns of both women and men are exhibiting more downward, lateral, and static movement. In this career context, the glass ceiling may no longer be the ideal metaphor to represent the obstacles that women are most likely to encounter.
Carol T. Kulik and Belinda Rae
Lynn R. Offermann and Kira Foley
Women have historically been underrepresented in leadership positions across private and public organizations around the globe. Gender inequality and gender discrimination remain very real challenges for women workers in general, and especially so for women striving for leadership positions. Yet organizational research suggests that female leaders may bring a unique constellation of leadership-related traits, attributes, and behaviors to the workplace that may provide advantages to their organizations. Specific cultural and organizational work contexts may facilitate or inhibit a female leadership advantage. Reaping the benefits of female leadership relies on an organization’s ability to combat the numerous barriers female leaders face that male leaders often do not, including gender-based discrimination, implicit bias, and unfair performance evaluations. Despite these challenges, the literature suggests that a reasoned consideration of the positive aspects of women’s leadership is not only warranted but is instructive for organizations hoping to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce.
Nasima M. H. Carrim
With an increase in the number of diverse groups of individuals (including ethnic minorities) entering organizations, managing diversity in the 21st-century workplace has become imperative. The workplace provides employees with opportunities to work interactively with others in diverse situations and to express their identities, including ethnic identity. Despite Western-based organizations’ adoption of strategies such as affirmative action in an effort to integrate diverse employees into their workplaces, members of ethnic minority groups may still experience great difficulties in obtaining instrumental and social support in these organizations. While some minorities may not outwardly manifest their ethnicity, in the majority of cases, ethnic identity forms a core identity of many individuals and employees do not leave this identity at the doorstep of the organization. In some countries, ethnic minorities have refused to assimilate into the majority workplace culture, and have maintained strong ethnic identities. By outwardly expressing their identities, ethnic minority employees face discrimination, stereotyping and micro-aggressive behaviors within the workplace, and in the majority of cases are relegated to dead-end lower level posts and face barriers to their career advancement. Also, having strong ethnic identities results in a conflict between minorities ethnic identities and the workplace culture. This is especially apparent in terms of religious beliefs and values. Embracing ethnic identity of migrants into organizational cultures is especially challenging for organizations these days, as many immigrants are highly skilled professionals that enter western corporations. They experience discrimination and not receiving support in order to advance their careers.