There is no dearth of competent women who can take board seats and once shareholders are forced to look beyond the ‘old boys’ club’ they will find enough women to fill them up! While the phrase glass ceiling is metaphorical, many women who find themselves bumping their heads on it find it very real indeed. It is most often used to describe the sexist attitude many women run into at the workplace. In a discussion of ascending the corporate ladder, the word “ceiling” implies that there is a limit to how far someone can climb it. Along with this implied barrier is the idea that it is glass, meaning that, while it is very real, it is transparent and not obvious to the observer. The term glass ceiling is most often applied in business situations in which women feel, either accurately or not, that men are deeply entrenched in the upper echelons of power, and women, try as they might, find it nearly impossible to break through. I feel it is better described as a maze since it more accurately conveys the complexity and randomness that typically occurs better than the glass-ceiling metaphor.
Maze and games shouldn’t be there to start with, but women usually are met with stereotyping, and resistance to be promoted. Some believe that if you fill the companies’ pipelines with exceptional women leaders talents, eventually they’ll make it into the executive suite kind of “build it they will come” or “just give it time” philosophies have been widely accepted for decades. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. There are many challenges that continue to face women who strive to get to the top, but how long are we going to dwell over spilled milk? The fact that there are women in senior leadership positions, some in industries that are stereotypically male dominated indicates that the barriers can be broken. So what are the real reasons behind anyone including women not reaching a certain level of hierarchy, or promotion; so is it competence, supply, Comfort zones, complacency, fear of success or none of these factors? EVER wondered why India Inc. is surging ahead riding on the best male brains alone?
Are talented women rare in out midst? The corner offices and top managerial levels are all filled up by deserving men; but where are the women, some of whom handle important portfolios in big organisations. The answer lies in a deep-seated Indian prejudice. Somewhere down the journey in their careers, women get lost midway, some giving up their careers after marriage or children and, in some cases, both. It is not that women do not deserve to be in decision-making positions of the companies that do India proud on the international platform. Instead, it is the invisible glass ceiling at workplaces that keeps women from getting to the top. They are often bypassed and overlooked when a top position is being considered. Women often have to handle the egos and expectations of male colleagues, and only a handful of them have, so far, managed to break the glass ceiling that keeps them from reaching the upper echelons of management. While many women insist that the glass ceiling is a real barrier to accessing male-dominated positions in business, many challengers say that it exists mostly because women choose to focus more of their time on family and, in the end, cannot dedicate as much time to their career. Others claim that women think they want to focus on their career, but in reality choose family over career.
If we can define the causes of an illness and control its symptoms, we can then find a cure, so if we can define the reasons of the Glass Ceiling and decrease its effects then we can find a solution and a remedy to the problem. True, India Inc. threw its weight behind the Women’s Bill, which promises to give the fairer sex a bigger role in the political arena when it becomes law, but it is time to pause and think whether some sort of reservation is also needed to achieve the same gender balance in the boardrooms as well. There are two factors that can help contribute to achieving the equality of sexes in the boardrooms. One is to put in place a policy that encapsulates the spirit of gender equality amongst professionals, and the other is to gradually propel a cultural shift within an organisation. Merely putting a policy in place would not help change the deep-rooted prejudice. Some women, who have been able to break through the glass ceiling and have made it to the top are of the opinion that the work culture needs to be changed first, which involves a bottom-up approach; the mentality needs to be changed at the grass roots, which will drive diversity as well as a policy that can be put in place to implement it.
At the same time, it has been proven that changes in policies can bring about refreshing changes in a country’s work culture and introduce gender diversity in private institutions. Reservation might not be the best way out, but the ball has to start rolling at some point. Sometimes extra effort is needed to encourage and empower women, and quotas can serve as a transitional means to overcome initial blockages. The leadership styles of men and women are different from each other, women are not men in dresses; and shouldn’t be expected to act or lead the same way to fit in. Plus women at the top are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they are aggressive and lead with an iron fist they are seen as a threat, if they try the inclusive and participative style of leadership they are seen as too soft. Men and Women are different, and it is this difference that we need to celebrate!! Malavika Sahoo; Meenal Kukreja