Glass Ceiling or Sticky Floor?
I had the great pleasure of attending a webinar by Carolyn Wiethoff, professor at the IU Kelley School of Business and an expert on organizational behavior. She gave some startling statistics about how women still earn between 60-80% of what men are earning in the same positions across different career fields. Her research attributes this to the good old boys club, male dominated work cultures, and overt discrimination, which are not new issues for 2010. What surprised me was her report that some women are also lacking breadth in their work projects such as opportunities to work on international assignments and complex cases because some bosses feel they might not be able to handle it due to family constraints.
While research supports that women do prefer positions with flexibility, it’s also important for women to ask for what they want in a work environment. Men are 58% more likely to ask for a higher starting salary when an offer is made while most women just take the job, as is. Women who do reach the pinnacle of C-level or executive positions are often considered oddities referred to as the female doctor, or female CEO. I’ve never heard a single reference about a male CEO. I find it unsettling that in 2010 women have not advanced significantly in the equality arena and are still openly discriminated against in the workforce similar to conditions decades ago.
But, my take-away optimistic hope from Wiethoff is that from here on out we need to redefine equality. Women should be encouraged to seek out male mentors and role models (in addition to women!) to integrate in the male dominated work environments. When men and women both take advantage of flex time, maternity/paternity and family leave, we will move closer to this not being something that only women have to do in order to take care of their families. I look forward to the day when telecommuting and utilizing technology to accomplish the job virtually are acceptable options for all and not special dispensations for a limited few.
Lastly, Wiethoff shared that the generation of young women entering the workforce now are more focused than their predecessors on work/life balance and choose careers that empower them to raise families and lead quality lives out of the office. Once again it all comes down to values and what you prioritize and cheers to these women for knowing what they want. All women and especially those who consciously choose the path of the C-level executive because it fits their values and provides gratification, should ask for more money and you will probably get it! The book It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor by Rebecca Shambaugh is worth checking out.