Glass Ceiling: Managing Workplace Relations

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Glass ceiling is one of the problems affected women in modern business. The paper addresses the problem of glass ceiling through lens of radical feminism. The paper is based on substantial literature review and case study analysis. Of all the strategies discussed, unions and antidiscrimination policies are probably the most efficient and effective. If more cases on glass ceiling have been brought to the court in the United States, than less women would suffer from unfair treatment and discrimination. The impediments to using the courts in the United States remain enormous. Judicial proceedings are an expensive, time‐ consuming, and painful process; judges vary in their degree of commitment to EEP.


At the beginning of the XXI century, glass ceiling is still of vital importance. Politics and human rights policy have changed significantly throughout the previous century. Unfortunately, not all the problems of equal opportunities at the workplace have been solved. The problem of glass ceiling is closely connected with affirmative action policies as the main tool against glass ceiling. For females and minority employees, affirmative action proposes great opportunities to be equally treated and protected (to some extent). Nevertheless, there are some disadvantages of these policies. They include low-qualifies fork force and low-personal achievements of employees involved in the affirmative action programs. During half a century, affirmative action policies have proved their effectiveness, but cannot “abolish” gender and racial inequalities. For this reason, training and promotion activities as a part of anti-glass ceiling are vital for successful organizational performance. To over come these possible threats the organization should conduct programming of specific human resources activities, based on personal development and human capital policies.

Methodology and its Limitations

Any research is based on facts and data that are collected and the method depends upon the purpose of research. The research design has to be drawn upon to suit the requirements of the study. This study is based on secondary data from published articles and books. Since there is sufficient literature available on the subject under study, no primary data will be collected. The research is based on the findings of others and is assimilated under this study. This is a qualitative research method where through literature review conclusions can be drawn. A qualitative method of research allows for prolonged contact with the field of study. Conducting interviews would restrict the research to a local area or region whereas literature from different sources can be reviewed. Literature on research conducted at different locations and on different groups of people with different purposes of study has helped to get and assimilate different perspectives. A single study would only focus on a small sample of people and the conclusions may not be as beneficial to the restaurateurs. Besides, a single study may not be able to capture all the details, all the perspectives and the reasons for eating out. This has been possible through literature review.

The study has certain limitations. Academic journals that have been published have been the focus of study. It is not known whether the researchers or authors are paid authors or independent researchers. Articles pertaining to British people in Britain have been focused on. The attitudes and behaviour pattern of people have been studied in relevance to food habits and eating out. While there are several ethnic communities, none of the articles that have been reviewed, have specifically mentioned including such samples. Hence it is presumed that the study is purely based on the responses from the different groups of people.

Key stakeholder perspectives

The Webster dictionary proposes the following definition of glass ceiling: “Invisible but real barrier through which the next stage or level of advancement can be seen, but cannot be reached by a section of qualified and deserving employees” (p. 998 cited Stanny 2004, p. 3). From management perspective, organizations play a major and continuing role in the lives of people, especially with the growth of large-scale business organizations and the divorce of own­ership from management. Organizations of one form or another are a necessary part of a society and serve many impor­tant needs. The decisions and actions of management in organizations have an increasing impact on individuals, other organizations and the community. For labor unions, It is important, therefore, to understand the role of glass ceiling and affirmative action and the perva­sive influences which it exercises over the behavior of people. In the XXI century, the debate over pros and cons of anti-glass ceiling action is still alive. Heated discussions concern the role of affirmative action in organizational development and its impact on HR management.

The state is one of the main stakeholders which have a responsibility to eliminate glass ceiling and control fair treatment of all employees. The main arguments involve: breaking the stereotypes, equal results, compensation and diversity issues. From the managerial point of view, ddisadvantaged groups, who have already been iden­tified, are women, people from other racial backgrounds, disabled people and older people, and in the USA there is legislation protecting the employment rights of the first three of these four groups. The roots of affirmative action go very deep, and in relation to women concern challenging a system of institutional discrimination and anti-female conditioning in the prevailing culture. The role of legislation is to introduce strict laws and protect omen from discrimination on the national level. A national drive to promote equal opportunities for women at work began in 1992 with the aim of committing employers to going through a three-stage process of: auditing existing policies; setting measurable goals; making a public commitment from top management to achieving them. Organizations achieve their own goals in line with their business objec­tives. One practical result of this drive was that Iceland Frozen Foods pledged to increase the proportion of female store managers from under 10 per cent to 15 per cent by the end of the year.

Literature Review

The core of current literature (including research articles and case studies) criticizes glass ceiling and discrimination through lens of ineffective state policies and laws. Following Crutcher (2006), the necessity of actions against glass ceiling was caused by dominance by white males in American workforce. At the middle of the XX century they occupied the majority of managerial positions and many of the more important blue-collar jobs. Duclaux (1995( state that the role of women was to occupy lower-paying positions. On the other hand, racial minorities found considerable barriers to entering the labor market at the higher paying levels. The necessity of affirmative action is still an issue of the day, because people are discriminated in many aspects of our life and work. The selec­tion process in particular directly discriminates between people in order to offer the reward of a job to one but not the others. Certain forms of discrimination are acceptable but others are not, and have been made unlawful.

The case study, “Designing Women: A Qualitative Study of the Glass Ceiling for Women in Technology” by Lemons and Parzinger (2001) states that: “glass ceilings for women in IT may result from educational aspects and family characteristics, corporate cultures, or sociological factors. This article is the qualitative portion of a large empirical study that asked respondents to complete an on-line questionnaire regarding the glass ceiling for women in technology” (22). Facts rather than prejudice, and relevant facts rather than irrelevant facts, are important criteria in determining what type of discrimination is acceptable.

Following Rosow and Casner-Lotto (1998), Stroud (1999), Rubenfeld (1997) affirmative action policies should be seen as the core of glass ceiling fight. The necessity of affirmative action can be explained by the fact that there are always certain groups in any society that are discriminated against unfavorably due to the prejudices and preconceptions of the people with whom they have to deal. These preconceptions are sometimes verbalized, but often not, and the people holding these preconceptions may well be unaware of the way that they see and judge things and people. However, these preconceived ideas influence the actions of the people who hold them, and the way they deal with others. The effects of this can be seen in the employment arena, as this is inextricably linked with discrim­ination in the rest of society. These offer some useful perspectives and practices, although the underlying concepts also raise some issues and concerns.

Similar to previous studies, Berryman-Fink et al (2003), Dietz-Uhler and Murrell (1998), Kamalu and Kamalu (2004) identify the following arguments for affirmative action: paternalism, race and argument from precedent. “The paternalism argument claims that the preferential treatment affirmative action bestows upon minorities is in fact “poisonous” and that affirmative action is constitutionally noxious to members of the very groups it ostensibly benefits” (Kamalu and Kamalu (2004, p. 489). Today, the debate concerns the action that should be taken to alleviate the disadvantages of minority groups.

The theoretical studies on the topic of glass ceiling were also analyzed. Linehan (1997) state that some women employees support legislative action while the others argue that this will not be effective and that the only way to change fundamentally is to alter the attitudes and preconceptions that are held about these groups. The initial emphasis on legislative action was adopted in the hope that this would eventually affect attitudes. However, there have been some efforts to change attitudes directly in addition to this. The second argument explains that: “this categorical difference is attributable both to the special dangers of racism in American society and to the special role of race in the history of the Equal Protection Clause” (Norander 2008, p. 431). In general, research literature creates a detailed account of glass ceiling, its problems and proposes effective solutions for affirmative actions.

Framework of Research

Radical feminism will be the framework of the paper. Radical feminism grew out of the activism of the 1960s. In the American Civil Rights movement women were fighting for equality, freedom, and the right to lives of dignity for blacks and the poor; in the anti-war movements of the Vietnam era they were calling for peace and people’s right to self-determination; in the student movement they were demanding a relevant and participatory education (Stanny, 2004). Yet in the process they realized that as women they often lacked the very rights they were fighting for in the name of others. Sexual politics, the system of sexual dominion “whereby males rule females”, were as alive and well in many a Red Cell or alternative commune as in the most conventional bourgeois household. The system of gender roles and relations by which the domination of men and the subordination of women was institutionalized remained largely unquestioned, often even affirmed. The original congressional strategy for combatting discrimination in the United States was based upon voluntary compliance with the law. This strategy was legislated as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. The problem of discrimination was perceived as an essentially human problem in which employers who were biased against minorities or women would yield their prejudices to skillful government persuasion though conciliation (Stanny, 2004).

Solutions and Recommendations

Any woman employee who believed that she had been discriminated against could file a complaint alleging discrimination. Any one of the five members of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) could also initiate a complaint if he or she had reason to believe that there was discrimination (Patterson, 1998) The most important aspect of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission strategy involved the way in which it defined galls ceilings— or more specifically the way in which it thought about discrimination. Americans had traditionally perceived discrimination in a nonlegal context as involving the evil state of mind of an employer who did not want to hire blacks or women or some other group (Stanny, 2004).

Glass ceiling cannot be considered in isolation from the remuneration policy. Wages may account for up to 80 per cent of total costs in some industries. The objects of a policy of remuneration are: to attract and retain sufficient staff of the required caliber to meet the orga­nization’s objectives; to provide staff with incentives for better work; to have a policy which is logical and consistent, easily understandable and flexible. After objectives, policies and priorities have been determined, the methods of remuneration to be used to achieve them should be considered, i.e. job evalu­ation, merit rating, incentive schemes and fringe benefits. An employee may expect promotion as an outcome of a high level of contribution (input) in helping to achieve an important organizational objective. People also compare their own position with that of others. They determine the perceived equity of their own position. Feelings about the equity of the exchange are affected by the treatment they receive when compared with what happens to other people. Women, unlike men, reported having to push for the job after a trial. Today, affirmative action covers a range of approaches and emphases, some closer to equal opportunities, some very different. In reality, there remains the question of the extent to which approaches have really changed in organizations. Equal opportunities in may just be a way of making it more palatable in today’s climate, may be used to revitalize the equal opportunities agenda (Norander, 2008).

Because of the systemic nature of employment discrimination, many of the existing institutions both in government and in society are involved in the implementation and maintenance of systems which have the exclusionary impact on women or minorities. These institutions are inappropriate for enforcing a new law designed to change those systems. It is recommended that an appropriate enforcement strategy normally would include the establishment of some independent enforcing agency within the government or, at a minimum (if enforcement is to be assigned to an existing agency, bureau, or department), that a separate subsection be established and that this subsection, subbureau, or subdivision have its own lawyers and its own enforcement power (Berryman-Fink et al 2003).

From an international perspective, an anti-discrimination enforcement strategy will not work if the agency given responsibility for its administration does not have adequate powers. At a minimum, those powers should include the power to gather statistical data, to initiate enforcement action, to subpoena data, to enforce compliance, and to issue guidelines. The agency should have the power to gather reports and statistical data from employers, labor unions, and other entities which may be operating systems which have an exclusionary impact on women. The goal of these statistics would be to measure the extent of the exclusionary practices and to pinpoint them for justification or elimination. It is important that the enforcement agency have the power to receive and investigate individual complaints. The most important power, however, will be the power to initiate its own investigations and its own enforcement actions. In the early days, EEOC blurred these two powers (Crutcher, 2006). The result was a substantial backlog of complaints. A study of the American experience shows the importance of separating the processing of individual complaints where the focus is on a rapid remedy for the individual from the processing of initiated systemic complaints where the focus is on changing an entire employment system which has an exclusionary impact and replacing it with a nonexclusionary system. Once such a law has been passed, implemented, and enforced, however, some of the greatest changes will occur through voluntary compliance. This requires that the staff of the enforcing agency and personnel in the legal and enforcement arms of companies, unions, and others get expertise in what I have called “systemic thinking” (Stanny, 2004; Duclaux, 1995).

Following Rosow and Casner-Lotto (1998) every time a woman thinks about glass ceiling, she must be aware of two questions: What is the impact of this system? If the system is exclusionary, is there an alternative system available? When both government and private institutions begin to think about employment systems in this fashion, changes will begin to occur that will assure that women and minorities and others now excluded are included and which will do so in a fashion which will contribute to the country’s productivity constructively. It is a strategy which, I believe, will have the maximum impact in the long run on improving the economic situation of women and which will, secondly, have the maximum impact on increasing the world’s productivity to the benefit of us all. The agency program must separate the processing of individual grievances from agency-initiated investigations. Agency investigations should be initiated using the statistics gathered pursuant to the reporting and data-gathering power. Specifically, employers whose statistical reports indicate that their systems have an exclusionary impact on minorities and women should be the subject of investigation. The focus of those investigations will provide the employer an opportunity to submit his or her justification, which can then be evaluated by the job relatedness— business necessity standard (Stroud, 1999). Following Dietz-Uhler and Murrell (1998)

“Although the human capital model focuses on negative reactions to the target as a form of resistance to affirmative action, it does not take into account the relationship between the perceiver and the target in accounting for evaluations of affirmative action applicants… people favor affirmative action policies if they have a vested interest in them” (p. 933).

Unionization impacts positively on women’s earnings. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that women in unionized jobs average $1,500 a year more in wages and fringe benefits than women in nonunion plants or offices. In the U.S. there is a shortage of women in labor education, in industrial relations fields, and in union administration to serve as teachers and role models (Linehan, 1997). It is sometimes difficult in New York City to recruit the kind of teachers needed; it is much harder outside the metropolitan area. However, increasing numbers of women enter these fields every year, and our recruiting and training techniques are improving (Lemons and Parzinger, 2001). Once teachers have been trained for Trade Union Women’s Studies, they are recommended for teaching in Cornell’s labor studies program, which reaches men as well as women. Union men need the exposure to women teachers who are experts in these fields: it builds their respect for women in a profession traditionally seen as a male province and helps to change attitudes. Trade Union Women’s Studies is a viable approach for delivering to union women the kind of programs that they want and need. The short courses and conferences which are part of the not-for-credit programming of the Institute on Women and Work have proven their value as “ticklers” to stimulate the interest of working women in getting information they need and to prove to them that they are able to do the course work that is involved in returning to school (Linehan, 1997).


A wide array of issues and themes flows from considering the actual institutional means by which equal employment policy for women is implemented. These range from mandating equal employment policy through legislation and collective agreements to implementing it through administrative agency regulations, court decisions, and conciliation and arbitration. They encompass a concern for political action by nongovernmental groups with vested interests in expanding the employment opportunities of women. no one policy instrument mandating EEP, whether a law, a government regulation, or a collective agreement, can, by itself, achieve equal employment opportunity for women. Nonetheless, it is important to mandate equality for women in the labor market through a law prohibiting sex discrimination. Past experience suggests that such a law would be of limited effectiveness, especially if it only provides for the investigation of individual complaints about specific employer actions. At the same time, there are certain provisions that, if included in a law, would render it more effective. A law must contain a clear definition of what constitutes glass ceiling, a set of straightforward enforcement procedures, and strong sanctions for noncompliance. In addition, it must protect individual complainants from the likelihood of retaliation by employers and other employees.

List of References

Berryman-Fink, C., Lemaster, B. J., Nelson, K. A. 2003. The Women’s Leadership Program: A Case Study. Liberal Education, 89 (1). 43.

Crutcher, R. A. 2006. Spiraling through the Glass Ceiling: Seven Critical Lessons for Negotiating a Leadership Position in Higher Education. Liberal Education, 92 (1), 102.

Dietz-Uhler, B., Murrell, A.J. 1998. Evaluations of Affirmative Action Applicants: Perceived Fairness, Human Capital, or Social Identity? Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 38 (11-12), 933.

Duclaux, D. 1995. Cracked Glass? ABA Banking Journal, 87 (1), 1.

Kamalu, J.A., Kamalu, N.C. 2004. From Bakke to Grutter: The Supreme Court and the Struggle over Affirmative Action in the Era of Globalization. The Western Journal of Black Studies, 28 (2), 489.

Lemons, M. A., Parzinger. M. J. 2001, Designing Women: A Qualitative Study of the Glass Ceiling for Women in Technology. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 66 (1), 22.

Linehan, M. 1997, Senior Female International Managers. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Company. Glass ceiling.

Norander, S. 2008. Surveillance/discipline/resistance: Carly Fiorina under the Gaze of the Wall Street Journal. Communication Studies, 59 (2), 82.

Patterson, O. (1998). Affirmative Action: Opening Up Workplace Networks to Afro-Americans. Brookings Review, 16 (1), 17.

Rubenfeld, J. 1997. Affirmative Action. Yale Law Journal, 107 (2), 427-472.

Stroud, S. 1999. The Aim of Affirmative Action. Social Theory and Practice, 25 (3), 385.

Rosow, J., Casner-Lotto, J. 1998. People, Partnership and Profits: The new labor-management agenda, Work in America Institute, New York

Stanny, B. 2004. Secrets of Six-Figure Women: Surprising Strategies to Up Your Earnings and Change Your Life. HarperCollins Canada / Management; Reprint edition.

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