Miller & Lemons (1998) had identified other problems, one of which was, in fact, exclusion from the old boy networks. They noted the fact that women also often are in a pioneering role as problematical." And they had a very sympathetic viewpoint of the 'differences' in family responsibilities obliquely identified by the GAO report: "Also, after spending a long day at work, most of these women still have to go home and contend with family responsibilities such as "maintaining a household, raising children...." (Miller & Lemons, 1998).
The size of the Baby Boom generation may also be a factor, according to research into workplace depression.
Preceding that, however, is the first encounter with the glass ceiling. "Because the boomers make up such a large cohort of workers, many have experience a plateauing early in their career" (Johnson & Indvik, 1997). In addition, they noted that the recent increase in corporate layoffs may have further affected this group, so that those remaining will show a decrease in motivation, resulting n a failure to contribute, that results in even further expansion of the earnings gap (Johnson & Indvik, 1997). And they note that for women, this stress may extend off the job as well, exacerbating the entire process for women more than for men.
Finally, affirmative action plans in effect at many companies have not helped because, says Kelly (1993), the programs have not yet reached critical mass. His theory regarding this postulates that "If you have only 80 minority professionals out of 800 professionals, then you may not have critical mass for minorities at the professional level" (Kelly, 1993). Moreover, he says it is a self-perpetuating cycle, as those who are not promoted today obviously cannot help others get promoted tomorrow (Kelly, 1993). A close reading of this hypothesis would lead, as well, to the conclusion that the good-old-boy factor is operative.
III. Research findings on the glass ceiling (trends)
Research findings generally have noted that current trends are reflective of the material above.
Marlow et al. (1995) noted that "While there is some level of agreement in the sample's perception of the criteria needed for career advancement for both men and women, the perception of the women managers is that all criteria are more important for women than for men."
Within their research, they also noted geographical trends. For example, Wisconsin turned out to be one of fives states in which "women experienced all forms of sexual harassment more than men. Of high-level female public administrators in these five states, six to sixteen percent experienced unwelcome sexual advances; eleven to 24% experienced requests for sexual favors; fourteen to 36% experienced offensive physical contact and 33 to 60% experienced some offensive verbal behavior" (Marlow et al., 1995).
Another study, this one of "most admired companies," revealed that diversity initiatives, which would include initiatives regarding women, "productivity, competitiveness, and workplace harmony" (Ivancevich & Gilbert, 2000). This study did not, however, attempt to link remuneration with these 'soft' workforce factors. On the other hand, one might extrapolate from the findings of Ellis and Sonnenfeld reported by Ivancevich & Gilbert. Ellis and Sonnenfeld "measured the impact of cultural diversity training in two organizations and found that this exposure increased employees' perceptions of managerial concern about the issue, decreased their perceptions that minorities received too much attention, and confirmed that the company is concerned with their individual growth" (Ivancevich & Gilbert, 2000). Arguably, this indicated a trend toward improving women's place in the workforce, but it still does not speak directly to the issue of money.
In fact, except for the research investigating the dollar gap per se, much research concentrated on fairness and compliance, and, not surprisingly, Mani (1997) found, in a study of government executives, that:
The similarities between these male and female SES members suggest that federal executives are treated equitably. Some reported having encountered barriers such as biased attitudes and gender discrimination. However, age and salary data are evidence of general procedural fairness and compliance with equal employment opportunity policies, not of policy failures forming a glass ceiling (Mani, 1996).
On the other hand, Mani (1997) found that "Sixteen SES members explained that a supervisor's biased attitude had blocked their promotions within the last five years, and 15 of them reported lost opportunities for promotion due to gender discrimination."
IV. Analysis of the glass ceiling problem
From all the research, it appears that the problem is persistent in the culture, for both sociological and organizational reasons. "A 2004 study shows that those companies that have managed to 'break through' the glass-ceiling have prospered financially" (Lockwood, 2004), with little effect on the earnings gap. This would indicate that indeed, there is a great attachment to maintaining the differential between men's and woman's salaries. There is no other conclusion to arrive at, considering that Lockwood also reported that even the shareholders' potential for gain did not negate the glass ceiling. Lockwood (2004) reported that "Of 353 Fortune 500 companies, those with the highest representation of women on their top management teams had better financial performance than did the group with the lowest women's representation: the Return on Equity (ROE) was 35% higher and the Total Return to Shareholders (TRS) was 34% higher."
V. Possible solutions to the glass ceiling problem
Four major possible solutions to the glass ceiling problem appear to be workable. The first is simply avoiding the glass ceiling through entrepreneurship. "In the United States the growing number of women-owned or majority women-owned businesses demonstrates that women entrepreneurs are breaking through the glass ceiling (Lockwood, 2004)."
The U.S. Department of Labor found that, as of 1997, women owned 51% of 5,417,034 firms. "The four industries with the largest total revenues for women-owned businesses were wholesale trade, service, retail trade and manufacturing" (Lockwood, 2004).
In house, HR professionals are assumed to be able to make the greatest contribution to breaking the glass ceiling, and HR should:
Review HR policies and practices to determine if they are fair and inclusive (e.g., pay differences, hiring practices, history of promotions to senior positions, affirmative action plans).
Examine the organization's informal culture: look at subtle behaviors, traditions and norms that may work against women.
Through surveys and focus groups, discover men's and women's perceptions about the organization's culture, their career expectations and what drives their intentions to stay or leave.
Identify the organization's best practices that support women's advancement.
Map the strengths and weaknesses of policies and programs.
Support top-management commitment to talent management, including women in senior positions.
Ensure that diversity (including women in senior positions) is a key business measurement for success that is communicated to all employees by top management.
Require line management accountability for advancement of women by incorporating it in performance goals.
Train line managers to raise awareness and understand barriers to women's advancement.
Establish and lead a change-management diversity program for managers and employees.
Affirm diversity inclusion in all employment brand communications.
Develop a list of women for succession planning.
Develop and implement retention programs for women.
Emphasize the importance of women acquiring line management experience.
Encourage mentoring via informal and formal programs.
Acknowledge successful senior-level women as role models.
Support the development and utilization of women's networks inside and outside the organization.
Create and implement leadership development programs for women, including international assignments, if applicable" (Lockwood, 2004).
Diversity training is also recommended, as long as it includes feminist studies, and may also include sensitivity training, which is "designed to sensitize individuals to feelings provoked by discrimination" (Arai et al., 2001). Any number of other cultural and psychological tactics, with the proper professionals, can also be included in a company's work life. However, one of those recommended by Arai et al. seems particularly apropos to deconstructing the glass ceiling over time. That is cultural awareness training, which "provides an exploration of cultural or gender differences. Tactics range from discussing stereotypes and unintentional slights to building consensus on ways to avoid stereotyping. Cultural awareness training also separates the oppressed from the oppressive while encouraging the former to express their feelings to the latter" (Arai et al., 2001).
Self-audits are also recommended by some experts and should obviously be conducted before remedies are attempted. "Glass ceiling audits are conducted through statistical information collection, senior management and corporate culture analysis, barrier identification and qualitative analysis.... Once a firm identifies such barriers, they should continue to make sure that the impediments are minimized or eliminated" (Kelly, 1993).
VI. Solutions implemented
Wisconsin Power and Light overcame its glass ceiling problem, at least in part, by establishing diversity as a key corporate goal. Its commitment included specific expectations communicated throughout the company. These included:
Appreciating diversity at all levels of the organization
Providing a work environment that supports diversity, and Communicating diversity expectations on a company-wide basis (Arai et al., 2001).
VII. Why is this solution effective?
The company based their corrective action on the concept "that once employees recognize…