Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Glass Ceiling: Is it breaking?

What is glass ceiling?
It is the term used to describe barriers that prevent women and minorities from advancing to management positions in corporations and organizations.

The failure of more women and minorities to enter the upper levels of corporate management is due to the glass ceiling. In economics, the term ‘glass ceiling’ refers to the situations where the advancement of a qualified person within the hierarchy of an organization is stopped at a lower level because of some form of discrimination, most commonly sexism or racism.

It is called a ‘ceiling’ because there is kind of a block which prevents the employee or person to move upwards in the organization. The word ‘glass’ is used because the ceiling is transparent. It is not apparent and is normally an unwritten and unofficial policy. There are no explicit barriers that stop the minorities from acquiring advanced job positions. There will be no company which will specifically state ‘No minorities hired’. This is because it is illegal to do so. The equal opportunity laws forbid the companies from stating such things. It is not only illegal but also immoral. Although it is not apparent, there are certain companies which follow such policies secretly.

The "glass ceiling" is distinguished from formal barriers to advancement, such as education or experience requirements. This barrier is seem more in the developing countries. It affects women, gays, lesbians, schedule castes and schedule tribes and all other minorities in the country. However, this glass ceiling tends to affect working women the most. 

It's the barrier that prevents large number of women from obtaining and securing the most powerful, prestigious, and highest-grossing jobs in the workforce. This barrier makes many women feel as they are not worthy enough to have these high-ranking positions, but also they feel as if their bosses do not take them seriously or actually see them as potential candidates.

Is the time changing?

India has a woman as president, as speaker, as a leader of the ruling party and as a leader of the opposition party. We have female IPS officers now. Indra Nooyi is an example in the business field.

What is the ethical responsibility of the human resource department in this regard?

First of all the Human resource department should see to it that there is no discrimination. The best person is chosen for the job. It can be a male or a female, a heterosexual or a homosexual, a brahmin or a shudra. All such things should not come in between when decisions to appoint or promote are being taken. It should be completely unbiased.

If the human resource department does its work properly then it will benefit everyone. The organisation will benefit because the most efficient employees will be kept happy and satisfied. The employees will be happy because they will know that if they work hard then they will be rewarded irrespective of their background. Work will be the only thing that will be judged. Employees will be satisfied with the human resource department and will thus be more cooperative with other initiatives of the department.

It is also beneficial for the organisation when it has a good mix of people as its employees. It increases the number of ideas as there is a lot more diversity in the organisation.

Thus the organisation will follow its ethical as well as legal duty and also benefit in the process. It is a win-win situation for everyone.

Senator Hillary Clinton used the term glass ceiling in her concession speech as she withdrew from the 2008 Democratic primary: "And although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it."

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