Hello SOTGC community,
An alarming rhetoric has arisen in the echelons of corporate America: there is no glass ceiling any more against women, women have equal opportunities but the choices they make are merely different from men, and they choose to derail their careers when they have children. As a 6th year associate groomed by large law firms for the entirety of her career, I can honestly say this has been the attitude of all male and female colleagues alike.
A recent post by Lauren Rikleen on the Harvard Business Review’s blog, however, argues that advancement of women in the workplace has, in fact, not made significant progress in the new millennium because studies find that married men are intrinsically biased against women in leadership roles. Check out her article, ‘Are Women Held Back by Colleague’s Wives?’. And, because the significant majority of men in power are married, as a system, the corporate workplace still has a glass ceiling preventing women from true advancement and leadership.
Drawing on a recent study and article authored by several noted professors from NYU, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of Utah, Rikleen noted the four attitudes and beliefs of men in the workplace who were in “traditional” marriages, i.e., those who had wives who either did not work at all outside the home or who worked part-time. Their extremely broad-based study group revealed that these men:
- Have an unfavorable view about women in the workplace;
- Think workplaces run less smoothly the more women are in the workplace;
- View workplaces with female leaders as less desirable; and
- Consider female candidates for promotion to be less qualified than comparable male colleagues.
The study also found that the very types of married men who strongly manifested these belief systems tended to “populate the upper echelons of organizations and thus, occupy more powerful positions.” These men go on to reify their belief system by concrete actions validating these beliefs. Their conclusion was that there is a direct correlation between men who are in traditional marriage structures and the glass ceiling they implicitly create.
The empirical study was based on a very large and diversified pool of working men (718 men which for a sociological study is significant) and its findings cannot be ignored.
The findings of this study surprised me. Studies consistently seem to indicate that men and women start out with equal footing at a certain. For example, equal numbers of men and women matriculate to law school. See here. This statistic is constantly brought up by the media as support for its rhetoric that there are very few women in power not because there is a glass ceiling against women but because women themselves choose to take themselves out of the power paradigm by having children, the process of which is fundamentally different for women than men.
What the media chooses to conveniently ignore are studies such as the one by Yale Journal of Law and Feminism that found that while women law students enter law school in the same number of men, female students are treated differently by the predominantly male professors. The glass ceiling is endemic. And it may be caused by the traditional marriage structure which seems to create, in some, but not all married men, a perpetuating and self-validating belief system for these men that intrinsically makes it extremely difficult for women to reach positions of power. This glass ceiling starts at our educational systems.
The first step in eradicating a problem is acknowledging it. I am the first to say that I repudiate my former stance that women are not in positions of power at the same level as men only because they choose not to – there is still not just a glass ceiling for women in the corporate workplace, it’s a powerful one.