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A Discussion of the Ethics Management with the Disparity of Treatment Between Men & Women in the Workplace

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The Glass Ceiling:

A Discussion of the Ethics Management with the Disparity of Treatment between

Men & Women in the Workplace


Throughout much of recent history, "glass ceiling" has become a coined phrase and used over and over again to describe conditions in the workplace. In reality, its relevance is prevalent in the workforce today, and is a truism for many women and minorities who seek jobs in an evolving and more competitive time in our economy. Werhane, Posig, Gundry and Ofstein (2007) define "glass ceiling," as it applies to organizations, as a limitation women often face in the business and corporate environment in terms not only of salary, but promotion and/or power as well. The authors state that while there are many contributing factors to this "ceiling," perhaps the most important are made up of stereotypical and sexist attitudes. At first glance, this topic may seem outdated, however, it should be noted that this limitation can be broken and thus the term itself implies it can be overcome despite the fact its presence is often subtle and not quite as obvious as one would think.

This paper will examine the past history of the glass ceiling; the ever growing crack of the proverbial glass, and also seek to connect the topic to a solution involving stricter ethics within corporations, better and more aware management, and ultimately a new ethical model to minimizing and eliminating this long time boundary in the world workplace.

The Glass Ceiling: Past and Present

In the world of business, both today and of yesterday, women have faced the proverbial glass ceiling. Rostollan and Levene (2006) reported in their study that decades of research and efforts to correct the issue have produced positive results. Yet, as with almost any effort, there is always more work to be done. This "work" for the most part needs to be completed at the corporate level. In their examination of the glass ceiling, Lyness and Heilman (2006) examined associations between gender and type of position (herein "line" or staff"). TO clarify, a wide variety of positions exist within line and staff organizations. While some positions are primary to a company mission, others are secondary and in the form of support and indirect contribution. For instance, a line position involves day-to-day operations of an organization such as production or selling; where as staff positions indirectly aid line functions and aid top management with support and advice. In their study of these associations in 448 upper level managers in a wide variety of companies and organizations, the authors viewed not only performance but also promotion.

To no one's surprise, females in line jobs received not only lower performance ratings than females in staff jobs, but Lyness and Heilman also found that women in line jobs received lower performance ratings than men, whether those men were male staffers or male line positions. Furthermore, it was also ascertained that women were only promoted after receiving much higher performance ratings that men who had been similarly promoted. In the context of their article, it is suggested that women were and are held to a much higher standard and have to go above and beyond to get promoted in a similar time frame, or at all.

Dingell and Maloney (2002) have concurred with similar observations. In a study of several major companies and organizations, which according to their study employed over 71% of American women, women were also shown to be under represented in management level positions. In addition, and again not a surprise, was the disparity between salary - with men being paid more than women in the same positions. Through their examination, they were also able to demonstrate higher salaries in positions where men predominated, and lower salaries where women were predominant. This report also reiterated the existence of occupational segregation at lower and higher levels of management.

Based on these two studies researched, it is easy to see that men are treated in a different manner than that of women in the workplace. Facts show that women are faced with larger hurdles and limitations to overcome, where as men are not. Thus, the "shattering" of the glass ceiling may be awhile off, but for now, there are events that are creating many, many cracks in that ceiling, which this paper will discuss further.

One Crack at a Time to Shatter the Glass Ceiling

With the groundwork for limitations facing women in place, especially in management, the question that must next be solved is: What is able to be done to fix the problem of the glass ceiling, and fully allow women equal access to the same jobs as men, along with the perks, promotions and the other fringe benefits that come with said jobs.

Rostollan and Levene (2006) go on to say in their research that there are many programs in place or being put in place to shatter the glass ceiling permanently. These include, and are not limited to training and education programs, as well as using legislation enacted to end discriminatory practices buoyed by gender biases, to punish companies with glass ceiling friendly policies, and even by advocating for more legislation. Company programs are also in development across different corporate arenas to lower sexist behaviors and there are efforts in many cases to monitor situations that are problematic to insure goals to shatter the glass ceiling are being met.

Supplementing this study is the information examined by Donaldson and Wehane (2007) who make the point that ethics needs to be an effective part of managing a business and that ethics policies and/or a focus on ethical behavior and decision making processes can break the glass ceiling even more quickly. Our paper will next discuss ethics in relation to getting thru the glass ceiling and the final section will attempt to create an ethical model for effecting changes for this problem.

Ethics and the Glass Ceiling: How About That?

Per Bell, McLaughlin and Sequerial (2002) there is definitive connection between the glass ceiling, a form of discrimination and sexual harassment. The association or connection aims to keep women out of higher-level managerial positions and these authors put this in terms of it being a major ethical problem with the central theme being ethical and fair treatment of employees. They also note in their examinations that as more women reach higher-level managerial positions, sexual harassment and unfair discriminatory practices based on gender are substantially reduced. Therefore,



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