Glass ceiling still a perceived barrier to women’s careers

22 Feb

I’d love to ban the phrase ‘glass ceiling’: it’s out of date and demeaning, and surely women are creating their own opportunities now? Apparently not, according to research among 3000 managers from the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), revealing that gender equality in the workplace is still making “glacial progress”.

What I find interesting about the ILM’s Ambition and Gender at Work report is the disparity between male and female perceptions of the glass ceiling. Three-quarters of women (73%) believe it still exists, and believe they are held back from reaching board-level positions, while just 38% believe there is a glass ceiling. A third of female respondents (36%) believe that being a woman has held them back in their career, rising to 44% among women over the age of 45.

I wonder what’s really going on here. Is it that women can’t reach top positions, or that they won’t? The research also sheds some light on female psychology in the workplace. Women appear to have lower expectations when they embark on their careers, and they’re just not as driven as men. Only have of women managers describe themselves as having high or quite high levels of confidence, compared with 70% of men. Half of women expect to become managers, compared with two-thirds of men.

Yet, out of the corporate workplace, women have more ambitions to thrive and succeed. A quarter of women under the age of 30 expect to start running their own business within the next 10 years.

So, what are the solutions? Quotas are supported by 47% of women (and by two-thirds of women aged 45 and over), yet only by 24% of men. Almost two-thirds agree that positive action could help more women secure senior positions. Quotas could be two years away, with Lord Davies recommending employers take action now to avoid quotas being imposed upon them.

And as for the lack of confidence and self-belief, Penny de Valk, chief executive of the ILM, recommends coaching and mentoring programmes by employers.

“The research reveals a real split in opinion on how best to deal with the glacial progress the UK is making towards gender equality. Employers who are serious about increasing gender diversity at the top need to find ways to nurture women’s ambition. This means developing transparent talent management systems and introducing leadership career models and development approaches that flex to meet individuals’ needs.”



One Response to “Glass ceiling still a perceived barrier to women’s careers”

  1. Karen Ramirez 22/02/2011 at 8:40 am #

    The Association of Women Travel Executives has worked hard to address this issue through running a “Boardroom Ready” programme. The aim is to equip women with the soft and harder skills required for board positions – which in turn leads to great confidence in putting themselves forward.

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