I walk through the office, the sound of my heels hitting the ground following behind me. I feel confident in my chocolate brown suit with two pockets, one full of small notes and the other carrying a couple of BIC black pens. A gold-colored necklace dangles from my neck with matching earrings. I sit at my desk full of framed pictures and a couple of baby cacti. I smile and open my laptop to start my day.
That’s how 13-year-old me thought my typical day of work would begin when I got older. Little did I know that the chances of that were low and continue to be low due to one huge issue that isn’t discussed enough in society: the glass ceiling.
I was 15, sitting at my desk in my history class, when I first heard the term “glass ceiling.” I was confused. Why would someone make a ceiling out of glass, and how does that pertain to history? It didn’t take long for me to learn the true meaning and the history behind those two words.
It was the 1978 Women’s Exposition in New York. A woman named Marilyn Loden was in attendance. At the time, she worked as a Management Consultant. Many women spoke on their struggle to move past middle management. They blamed it on their ability to do their job, “maybe we just aren’t good enough,” they said.
When Marilyn Loden decided to speak, she wanted to acknowledge the other aspects affecting women who try to move up in companies. She bravely said, “the invisible glass ceiling is doing the bulk of the damage to women’s career aspirations and opportunities.” There it was, birth to a new term to perfectly describe how women were, and continue to be, held back in the workforce.
The glass ceiling describes the stereotypes and sexism that prevent women from moving up in their careers. It is called the glass ceiling because it is a substantial barrier, although no one can see it. Recently, the term has been updated to include discrimination against minorities as well.
After learning the meaning of the glass ceiling, I wondered how I didn’t know those words that meant so much to my future. I asked myself questions. How many women didn’t know the term? How would I not feel defeated and small, knowing I would have to work harder than any man to obtain my goal? Even if I did work harder, I feared it wouldn’t be recognized.
Statistically, I was right. 85 cents. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, that’s how much women make compared to every man’s dollar in the workforce. Black women earn even less than that, bringing in 63 cents for every dollar their counterparts make. Same qualifications as men, if not more, yet, less pay and fewer opportunities to be higher than mid-management.
If a woman does move up in the workforce, it’s often seen in one of two ways. Either she slept her way to the top, or she’s a bitch. A woman with any power, assertiveness, or dominance is cold, bossy, and mean. Yet, a man with the same qualities is seen as strong and smart. This is not always the case, yet time and time again, these stereotypes are used to explain how a woman becomes a leader in a company.
The shock from learning about the glass ceiling left my body as I came to a realization. The idea of women being lesser than men has been prevalent in society for the past 3000 years. Women being mistreated in the workforce originated from their mistreatment outside of work. Working didn’t change that for women; why would it? The inequalities in our world are embedded in our systems, cultures, and language.
Six years after that day in the classroom, there have been countless times I’ve seen the women around me come home from work frustrated and hurt. My mother has been in Corporate America since I was young. I remember seeing her laugh as she got dressed for work, but she often looked upset when she returned home.
However, I know that glass can break. I’ve dropped many dishes in my lifetime. I want to educate people on the things they may not know and help people realize they are not alone. I’m determined to become everything I want to be, and I hope other women are too.
It’s time to shatter the glass ceiling.