To commemorate Women’s History Month, it’s important to reflect on the progress women have made and the struggles we have overcome. National Women’s History Month can be traced back to the 1900s when women were fighting for equal rights in New York City. This was where the first Women’s Day celebration took place, celebrating the beginning of equality for women in the workforce. Since then, women have increased their earnings and education, and expanded their fields of occupation. We have yet to achieve full equality compared to our male counterparts, but are on the right track to breaking the glass ceiling many of us face when working at an organization.
A glass ceiling refers to the invisible barrier many women face as they move up the ranks that inhibits further progress after a certain point. There is considerable evidence that women encounter a glass ceiling or barrier to advancement into executive positions in organizations. Although many expected this barrier to be eliminated with the large influx of women entering the workforce, little change has actually occurred. Women still only make up less than 5% of high-ranking positions. Despite social movements and evolving laws, there are various factors that contribute to the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles. These include gender biases, microaggressions, and a lack of mentors and role models.
The glass ceiling prohibits both women and organizations from reaching their full potential and denies us all of the maximal benefits of gender diversity in leadership. Studies have found that the inclusion of women in leadership positions has significantly improved factors such as organizational value, financial performance, economic growth, innovation, and social responsibility. There were also fewer cases of micromanaging, fraud, and embezzlement when women were in charge. Women seem to lead in ways that challenge existing traditions and hierarchies. This diversity is extremely important in organizations and makes room for innovation. Having a diverse team of leaders with different perspectives can result in a greater ability to contribute to new ideas.
It’s unfortunate that many women, no matter their potential, are labeled and stereotyped by their male superiors. Underrepresentation is a dangerous thing because it creates a cycle that’s difficult to break. Because women are not given the opportunities for advancement into leadership positions, they may not believe that they themselves can achieve such positions. They may not realize that it’s not that their skills are lacking, but it’s because of the biases men have towards female employees. Even if women can achieve a high-ranking position, they will get fewer challenging assignments, have fewer opportunities to participate in projects, and receive less acknowledgment and recognition for their contributions. They sometimes even do more work for a lower salary. This needs to change.
Role models such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Malala Yousafzai have made major headway in the fight for gender equality. Women now have a stronger voice than ever when speaking about issues such as the salary gap and sexual harassment in the workplace. The MeToo movement was historical in that it brought to light serious issues that have been silenced for many decades. With all of our progress, we are on the right path to achieving equality. Thank you to all of the brave women who have fought and are still fighting so that we could live how we do today.
Chisholm-Burns, M., Spivey, C., Hagemann, T. & Josephson, M. (2017). Women in leadership and the bewildering glass ceiling. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 74(4), 312-324. doi: 10.2146/ajhp160930