Tuesday 22 October 2019

Still a glass ceiling - most female workers believe little has changed in 40 years

Female workers
Female workers

Anne-Marie Walsh

FOUR out of five women workers believe a glass ceiling still stops them rising to the top jobs over 40 years since the phase was coined.

A new survey suggests little has changed since an American management consultant came up with the well-known description for the apparent barriers stifling women’s careers.

Among the other stark findings in the research by an Irish businesswomen’s group is that just 5pc of its members have applied to join a board. One in four said they would like to join one but did not know where to start.

And over half of the working mothers who responded said they got little or no support from their employer when they returned to work from maternity leave.

Over a third of women admitted they have never asked for a pay rise, while a third said they only asked for one when they felt they deserved it.

But other findings in the research by Network Ireland suggest that the position of women in the workforce has changed for the better since the 1970s.

Back then there were no laws to protect women against harassment in the workplace and the number of women climbing the career ladder beyond middle management was miniscule.

Despite their views on the glass ceiling, over half of those surveyed said they believed being a woman made no difference to their career progression.

However, the general belief that their gender made little difference could be down to the fact that many are self-employed so have essentially taken matters into their own hands.

Also on the upside, two thirds of women said they had no issue speaking up a meeting, although a third  did.

Network Ireland President Helen Wycherley said the women surveyed did not give reasons why they thought there was a glass ceiling.

“A lot of our members are SME owners so are working for themselves, so maybe they interpret that while they are able to progress their own careers in a corporate setting they had another experience in the past,” she said. “Or maybe it’s what they’re hearing from friends at work.”

She said confidence is a factor for many women and the survey found a third believed women need to step up more but may need mentoring to do this.

“Why can’t we just fake the confidence and take the opportunity because I do know that women have the experience, the qualifications and the skills to back it up?” she asked.

She said she has not personally experienced a glass ceiling. “I work in a family business and have grown up with the mantra of ‘just do it’. I’ve always pushed myself forward to drive my own career,” she said.

She said there is a particular need for flexible working to support women with children.

The survey also found that one in four women did not go for a promotion due to family commitments.

Over a third of women said they managed the running of their household while another third shared it with their partner.

And of those who own their own business, family commitments were the second highest reason after costs that they did not expand their business.

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