Through the Glass Ceiling / I

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The glass ceiling effect has become a hot topic in recent years and after so much time invested in researching its effects as well as the ways in which it can be resolved, it seems we might be finally approaching a breakthrough.  The complexity of the phenomenon has inspired numerous authors to extensively reflect on its nature and the impact it has on women, as well as the hierarchical systems. They’ve written books, essays and articles, attempting to make a contribution to improving women’s chances to reach the heights in their professional careers.

They’ve defined the glass ceiling effect as a persistent resistance to the efforts of women and minorities to reach the top ranks of management in major corporations. The term glass ceiling effect was popularized in the mid-1980s, after it became visible that women, who entered the workforce in large numbers during the late 1970s and early 1980s, failed to advance beyond a certain level of management. (1)

It’s the year 2019 and things seem to be moving in the direction of acknowledging female professionals.  By the end of 2018, in the States, at least 110 women have been elected to Congress. Among them were: a Native American woman, Muslim woman, Somali-American woman, openly LGBTQ woman, youngest woman and African American woman representing Massachusetts.(2) The diversity was interpreted as, quote, a shift in the paradigm of the typical political candidate. (3)

This instance is important for a variety of reasons. It is estimated that it will generate a fair representation of women and minorities. Also, the approach to handling difficult and challenging situations will change, since women treat problems differently than men. Academics have determined that the differences will be visible through women’s efforts to introduce legislations that specifically benefit women. They also tend to bring more funding back to their home districts. (4)

However, the importance of such historic moment for women should not be interpreted as beneficial to women in a political sense only. There is an additional aspect to this narrative which tops all of the above mentioned gains in terms of relevance to the phenomenon of concern to this article. One major experiment in India demonstrated the effects of female leadership on adolescent girls’ career and education aspirations. An extensive study showed just how important the role model effect really is after women, in randomly selected village councils, were assigned to leadership positions. The results of 8,453 surveys of adolescents (aged 11–15) and their parents in 495 villages showed that, compared to villages that lacked female leaders, the gender gap in aspirations closed by 25% in parents and 32% in adolescents in villages assigned to a female leader for two election cycles.(5)

The changes in aspirations and educational outcomes of adolescent girls in India, coming as a result of female leadership, indicates that the act of over 110 women heading to Congress could revolutionize the way girls from all over the world perceive their own gender. Furthermore, as Michele Swers, a political scientist at Georgetown University states:
“Women in Congress are just more likely to prioritize issues that have a direct connection to women -violence against women, family leave policy, those kinds of things.”(6)
Accordingly, turning the tables on those who are violent, who harass, or demonstrate dismissive treatments of women can significantly impact the level of confidence in girls, but also, can help in dismantling the stereotypes associated with genders.

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