Glass Ceiling- How tough Nut to crack

Posted in Human Resources Articles, Total Reads: 2461 , Published on 15 October 2011

In the current era of continuous motion, economic dynamism and equal opportunities mark the end of old era of stabilized work force. We have moved far ahead from pastures to concrete jungles, from manual work to information technologies, which when combined with global trade and worldwide investment have shifted the economic ground we stand on.

Even after being in the race of anxious class of revolutionized workforce, the unenvied question is do we still live in a color blind or gender blind society? The answer is sexism, racism, and xenophobia still live side-by-side with unemployment, underemployment and poverty; they feed on one another and perpetuate a cycle of unfulfilled aspirations among women and people of color.

Manisha Sood, Country Manager, SanDisk India quoted in 2008 that “I don't think gender has anything to do with the work a person has to do, either in a vendor company, a distribution house or at a dealer's shop. It all boils down to the person's capabilities to quickly adapt to the environment and learn the tricks of the trade, because at the end of the day, the targets and challenges remain the same, whether you are a man or a woman,” [1]TeamLease Services, an Indian staffing company, undertook a survey 'Gender Preferences in Bosses' to understand perceived gender preferences among bosses across major cities in India, as well as its implications at the workplace. Across all the cities where the survey was commissioned, the common trend was that most respondents had male bosses. There was almost an equal split in the respondents' gender and the average age was around 28 years.

Key findings of the survey:

Two thirds of the surveyed workforce across cities agreed to women being more expressive about their emotions with only the cities of Bengaluru, Mumbai and Pune disagreeing to this.

75 percent of the respondents say 'being a woman' is reason enough not to take up senior level opportunities.

More than half of Chennai, Ahmedabad and Kolkata respondents prefer to have bosses of the opposite gender.

Pune's focus is work and not the gender of the boss! 'Really, it does not matter', say over 70 percent of Pune workers when asked about gender preference for their boss.

Over 80 percent of Ahmedabad respondents favored women for better administrative, people management and target aggression skills.

In Hyderabad over 80 percent gave five-stars to women bosses for time management, administrative and mentoring skills. However, respondents in Delhi were not very happy with women bosses for decision making, administrative and target aggression skills.

Here is a news clipping that caught my eyes last week “Female ex-Microsoft exec gets $1.5 million settlement” [2]Does Microsoft favor men when it considers promotions? Is the reason of all this is the proverbial Glass Ceiling?


Glass ceiling is defined as “a barrier so subtle that it is transparent, yet so strong that it prevents minorities specially women from moving up in the management hierarchy despite non-discrimination policies” (Morrison & Von Glinow, 1990: 200). A "ceiling" is suggested because persons outside the dominant demographic group are evidently limited in how far they are able to advance inside the organization ranks. However now is the time when skills typically associated with women like creativity, multi-tasking, flexibility and co-operation are in demand more than ever before. With rising opportunities for advancement in industries where changes like deregulation and restructuring is occurring such as telecommunications, fast growing industries such as business services and those with female intensive work forces such as finance, real estate and human resources; new horizons of career advancements are getting opened for females and minorities. This is leading to Cracks in the ceiling and women are moving up the corporate ladder.

Som Mittal, President, Nasscom presented his belief once that gender inclusivity is a must for the long-term success of the IT industry. There has been a time of yoke when females were not even considered in the talent pool. However, since the companies have realised that the omen of success lies not only in attracting the best people but also in retaining them, more companies have accepted now- and even started acting upon-the insight that women are equally important in the “wars of talents”. The organizations have undergone changes encouraging participation of females by offering the facilities of crèches, flexible timings and work from home. Long working hours, misperceptions about performance, lack of credibility are no more the barriers for females to pave their way towards top positions in the organisations.

Kiran Desai, winner of Booker’s prize; Indira Krishnamurthy Nooyi, the chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo; Anu Aga, chairperson of engineering major Thermax; Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairman & Managing Director of Biocon Ltd; Priya Kumar ,Director of International Center for Training Systems and also of the First Certified International fire Walk Instructors from India are the names of few faces of The Women today. In fact, Renu Khator has broken a glass ceiling of sorts by taking over as president of the University of Houston.

The case of 25% of leadership positions occupied by females at PepsiCo, is virtuous in today’s India where gender diversity is still seen with suspicion.  A woman in an executive role is not just a learning zealot who understands the core and technical aspects of her organization, but the one who makes up well with culture and relationships as well. A competent leader may have complete understanding of business trends and models, market analysis tools and the financials, but if the underlying emotional intelligence is lacking, then the organization may suffer. It is this changing dynamics which forms the background of the new mantra “Skills are mightier than the gender”. This transformation in the way of thinking have helped in breaking the ceiling above the women and the floors of misperceptions and stereotypes below the males to bring them both on same platform.

Now the researches have started suggesting that the underlying reason of Glass ceiling has turned up-side down. It may be because of the loss of control, competitive advantage and opportunities that is preventing the advancement of males. Is this going to lead to a flip of the glass ceiling? Let us leave this question answered for the years to come.

[1] Source: TeamLease Services' survey 'Gender Preferences in Bosses', 2008


This articles has been authored by Stuti Rai from Goa Institute of Management


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