Posted by: isabellarivascnu | October 6, 2016

The Concrete Ceiling

As this semester has progressed, we have discussed the challenges that women in leadership face on a day-to-day basis. We have discussed the challenges of getting to a leadership position in the first place and also the challenge of maintaining respect and influence once a woman is in that position. This past Tuesday, as we talked about the intersectionality of race and gender, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with the challenges that women of color in leadership face. Something that stuck out to me from the Turner article was that of all full-time faculty members in higher education in the United States, which is over 500,o00- only 36% were women. Of this 36%, only 14% were women of color. If you do the math, that means that only 5% of full-time faculty in higher education are women of color. This fact was unsettling to me.

As I read more about this topic, I began to look into other fields besides higher education. The Wall Street Journal posted an article titled, “Women of Color Hit a ‘Concrete Ceiling’ in Business.” This article talks about the underrepresentation of women in color in leadership positions. In our class, we have said the phrase “you can’t be what you can’t see” many times. For these women, this is a reality. In the C-suite level, or a corporation’s top executives, women of color make up 3% of population while white men make up 71% of the population. The author noted how in business, many people often find mentors of similar backgrounds, and how achievement and success often flows from these relationships with these mentors. What does this mean for women of color? If women of color in business are few and far between, does this inhibit the success of women of color who aspire to rise higher in their careers?

In addition to this lack of mentorship and overall underrepresentation, another challenge of women of color is that people in the workplace do not like to talk about race. According to the article, black women are the least likely to say that they worked in an inclusive work environment and less likely to feel like they can be themselves in the work place. How can we facilitate productive conversations about race in the work place?

How can this be addressed? Does the concrete ceiling exist? If so, what can be done about it?

References

Piazza, J. (2016, September 27). Women of Color Hit a ‘Concrete Ceiling’ In Business. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/women-of-color-hit-a-concrete-ceiling-in-business-1474963440.

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Responses

  1. What scared me the most about this post was the fact that black women find their workplaces to be noninclusive and do not feel free to be themselves. Not only are their so few women of color in leadership positions, but they don’t even feel that they can bring their whole self to the position. It is a result of this idea that anyone who doesn’t fit into the identity of white male is immediately disqualified from being able to exhibit leadership without changing something about who they are.

    What’s more, we demand diversity, and when it is achieved in some sense, we pride ourselves on it, but we only want diversity that still fits nicely into what we are used to. We want diversity, but not difference.

    To create better work environments for women of color (and minorities in general), the most fool-proof method would simply be to create more diversity. It is hard to be yourself and feel included and valued as a token. It makes absolute sense that the women who represent such a minority feel so uncomfortable. It is certainly not an easily achieved solution, but with diversity comes more comfort in one’s unique identity and a more inclusive workplace for those of any gender or race.

  2. I think you bring up an excellent points about that race is not talked about in the workplace. It is almost taboo to do so. I think this is one of the reasons the idea of a concrete ceiling is in place, because if something isn’t talked about, how can we address a problem or work on fixing a problem. So instead of just a glass ceiling, there is not a concrete ceiling because 1) race isn’t talked about but obviously there is an issue with women of race in leadership problems, and 2) a women of color won’t know why she can’t reach a leadership position if the problem isn’t addressed. I don’t think the glass ceiling exists everywhere, but I think it might exist in some workplaces and fields because the problem is just being addressed and because of that, people think their isn’t a problem or are too scared to even say what the problem is and they think it needs to be fixed.

  3. A large problem that presents itself for minority women is education. How can women of color attain meaningful leadership positions if they are more easily excluded from college education because of economic status. Today’s colleges and universities see more of a 50/50 split in male to female attendees, but of that 50% that are women a much smaller portion is made up of minority women. So the true problem is quite possibly a failure of the education system that prevents these women from obtaining college degrees. Much of minorities live in inner cities where the school system is failing and many minority families cannot afford private school and therefore the school system is not a safe learning environment. Thus, these women would not value education and would seek to find other ways to sustain themselves.

    Another example is how the Native American population has been neglected ever since colonization and have few ways to pay for an education or even obtain a GED. This leaves for fewer and fewer non white women to even seek leadership positions in businesses. Thus, these are some of the reasons why diversity in leadership for women can be very difficult since there may be very few minority women even in the field of study.

  4. I feel like using the phrase concrete ceiling is enforcing the stereotype. Calling it a concrete ceiling means that it can never be broken. This is not giving people hope but crushing it instead. I feel like this issue needs to be addressed but not like has it has been. Yes it is good to have “firsts” but at the same time constantly pointing out the “firsts” can intimate others. If we focus on changing our ways and not what is happening currently. If we focus on ways to change we can inspire others to try everything.

  5. I agree with Chase calling it the concrete ceiling means that it is impossible to break through. A large problem comes from not talking about race in the workplace. It is impossible to correct a problem if the issues are not addressed at all. Being a woman in the workplace is already challenging in a way, however, being a women of color adds to the challenge. To ensure that women of color are comfortable or equally represented there would have to be a drive for diversity.


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