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The Glass Cieling
The "glass ceiling" has held women back from certain positions and opportunities in the workplace. Women are stereotyped as part-time, lower-grade workers with limited opportunities for training and advancement because of this "glass ceiling". How have women managed their careers when confronted by this glass ceiling? It has been difficult; American women have struggled for their role in society since 1848. Women’s roles have changed significantly throughout the past centuries because of their willingness and persistence. Women have contributed to the change pace of their role in the workplace by showing motivation and perseverance.
The Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 started a women’s rights movement; a small group of women demanded the right to vote, claim progress in property rights, experience employment and educational opportunities, have social freedoms, and other essential demands touching every aspect of life. Women wanted a change and needed a new place in society. They did not have the most basic democratic equality of all, the equal right to vote, until the 19th amendment was adopted in 1920. As they gained the right to vote, women began feeling the right to explore other opportunities.
In the 1920s, women struggled to develop a work identity that would give them professional status and preserve their femininity (Walkowitz, 1051). They wanted to be eligible for an executive position, but at the same time they also wanted to be Women finally began working outside the home, but not yet at the level, status, and rank they deserved. They deserved
Women have long participated in American business, and their roles have greatly changed. The jobs that women held at first were considered simple and feminine. Many were secretaries, office helpers, or assistants to male executives. Some women were known as the earlier entrepreneurs, the traditionals (Emmott, 521). Traditionals were usually sole proprietors who extended domestic services and related skills into the marketplace. These women entrepreneurs opened the way to new horizons for other women in the workplace for future years.
In the 1950s, women comprised less than one third of the labor force (Berger, 4) (See Appendix B). Women had their place in the workforce, yet it was not very influencial. Women had to fight to hold their positions while confronting many hardships. They had to contend with management’s efforts to rationalize work with their family’s expectations of being a mother.
Women also had to live up to their family heritage and what their family’s thoughts were of a woman in the workforce. Some women felt that family issues had delayed the dawn of their careers. Barbara White, in Women’s Career Development, describes these women as late starters. Late starters are women who have been held back because of other commitments, beliefs or opinions. Some of today’s ‘profssionals’ made late commitments to their careers. Thirty-one percent decided that they would work at an early age because of family morals and traditions (White, 104).
Women entered their chosen occupation at the bottom of the business ladder. A very small number of them became entrepreneurs; it took determination, even though they were already part of the workforce. The ones who did strive to become entrepreneurs were known as ‘go-getters’ (White, 104). ‘Go-getters’ were hard-working women who wanted a significant role in American society. Some of these women had a problem with being segregated from men in the workplace. Certain fields were then classified as a male, female, or a neutral occupation. The majority of successful women entered what could be described as neutral or predominantly female careers (White, 51). Most of the successful women had professional and vocational qualifications, having studied business administration. (See Appendix A). Women were then expected to enter one of these fields, if they were to pursue any career at all. As some women became lucky and were able to acquire a college or university education, so too did biases against women by the male-dominated professions. Well-educated women struggled to build careers by establishing a series of popular professions, including teaching, social work, librarianship, and nursing.
In American Dreams, a series of oral histories compiled by Studs Terkel, several women describe their experiences in the workforce. One of these women, Joan Crawford, is an old-fashioned example of how women made it in society. She was a very poor girl
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Gender studies, Sexism, Women in the workforce, Glass ceiling, Female entrepreneur, Pink-collar worker, Women in South Korea
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