Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Why Aren’t There More Women In Power?

Why is there an underrepresentation of women? Why is there such a fight for a seat at the table? 

A conference full of people, mostly women breaking the glass ceiling
Breaking the glass ceiling of gender bias.

The issue of underrepresentation of women is two-fold. First, there is a fight to get to the table. And then, there is a fight to stay and join the conversation at the table. Let’s dive in.

Gender Bias

The most basic reason, of course, is the underlying prejudice against a woman leader. Women generally are not seen as fit or influential leaders. They are often overlooked for promotions and/or raises because it is assumed that they can’t take the workload or work in high-pressure situations –  women are innately sensitive and not driven enough.

Lack of Resources/Opportunities

Another problem is a lot bigger – the lack of resources and opportunities. Women are offered fewer resources and brought up with a different mindset. Due to gender bias, their upbringing entails a lot of thought to their domestic competence rather than their career and education. They are given fewer opportunities to showcase their talent along with the pressure to prove themselves. Even in scenarios where the opportunities are equal, the number of restrictions is endless. 

A woman studying, expressing the spirit of feminism
Education should not be conditional.

The higher you go, the fewer women there are.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Whether it be higher education or a higher position – this line holds true. And even in a minority, women in power tend to outperform their male counterparts in both scenarios. 

Domestic Responsibilities

Women are also charged with the responsibility of being the primary caregiver. It inherently falls on women and thus, they are passed for leadership roles. It is assumed that whenever they have kids, they’ll have to invest more time at home. Now, this doesn’t happen with a man. If it’s known that he’s about to become a father, he’s appreciated and given a raise and more opportunities because – he needs it, he has to provide for his family. This is called the fatherhood bonus and the motherhood penalty bias. 

Shouldn’t the responsibility of raising a child be equal between parents?

A mother spending time with her children
The responsibility falls equally.

The issue of breaking the glass ceiling is rooted in a variety of cultural, societal, and systemic factors. All of them interlink and contribute to the underrepresentation of women. While all of these things prevent women from reaching positions of power in the first place, it doesn’t really get easier after that.

What Happens After Breaking The Glass Ceiling?

Anything a woman does comes with societal expectations and stereotypes. If a woman is soft-spoken and collaborative as a leader, she’s seen as weak and not tough enough to lead. If she establishes herself with “strong” ideas and passion, she’s seen as too tough or difficult. 

A woman making the same decisions as a man or asserting the same leadership style is automatically seen as too ambitious. Ironically then, women are passed over for leadership roles because they are not ambitious or driven enough. There is literally no middle ground. 

 She might be sitting at the head of the table and yet, she’s not an equal, let alone a leader. 

Two women in power sitting at a table despite the gender bias
She deserves to be here as much as anyone.

A woman in that position is expected to be extra grateful to be in that seat since she’s the exception, not the rule. She faces the prove it again bias – a prejudice where less privileged people are required to constantly keep proving themselves even though men just get by on their potential.  

See, being grateful and being treated fairly are not mutually exclusive. You can be grateful for something and fight for what you deserve out of it. 

A woman should not be grateful to have a seat at the table, she should be paid to have a seat.

Lilly Singh via her Ted Talk – “A Seat at the Table” Isn’t the Solution for Gender Equity “

So, let’s try and change things a little. If you find yourself in a position of hating your female boss for any reason, take a beat and think about it – would you be having the same reaction if it was a man? I know, the prompt answer would be “yes” but trust me, sometimes we don’t realize our bias – it has happened to me too. 

In light of feminism, we need more women in power and in positions to make a change. Kids learn by watching their environment and it’s important to normalize a world where a woman’s contributions are valued just as much as a man’s.

The most crucial aspect of this fourth wave of feminism is the shift of mindsets. I hope you take away something from this post – I learned a lot while writing it. Do let me know your take in the comments below.

Thank you for reading, you can find more posts in the series here!

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