The glass ceiling

I HAVE always had a problem with the term “glass ceiling” as it relates to women in the workplace. It was a term which was coined in the early 1980s to represent the “unseen limitations that face women in the world of work”.
Basically, it is a barrier so subtle that you can see through it, but still so strong there has to be significant effort extended to break through.
The reason for my dislike of the term is not based on whether it is valid or not (It is!), but rather on the obvious sugar-coated term used for blatant discrimination against women rising to positions of power in the workplace.

It may be one of my hang-ups as a writer, but I do believe that there is power in terminology. The usage of the term, which has for the most part become clichéd, has helped usher in the further entrenchment of discrimination against women, as it gives the impression that this form of bias is just another thing society has to continue to deal with. It projects the idea that no one is really responsible for this, and it is merely a woman’s responsibility to break this barrier, which has continuously been solidified by years of patriarchy.

There are, of course, those who are quick to say that patriarchy is dead, or that women are blowing things out of proportion, and things have gotten better.
Well, yes, there are varying amounts of truth to all of this, except for the first one. Patriarchy, unfortunately, has never suffered any mortal blow; its prevalence in the public sphere may have been diminished, but it is rampant in every part of society. And while things may have gotten better in some regards, the majority of women are still suffering from one man-made barrier or the other impeding them.

We may be able to now vote, go to universities, and work; but the fact that there are still very few opportunities for women in male-dominated sectors, and that women are still earning less than their male counterparts in the workplace for doing the same job with virtually the same or more qualifications, only goes to show that while we have reached a certain space where we can say things have gotten better, we certainly have not arrived.
A lot of those who say the glass ceiling no longer exists, however, are those who continue to profit from the continuous oppression of women. Suffice it to say that men are not the only ones who do this; women, too, will state that there is no glass ceiling, because they, or someone they know or admire, would have climbed the corporate ladder with relative ease.

They seem to forget that these cases are exceptions to the rule, rather than the rule itself; and these women, admirable though they may be, cannot be used to represent the multitude of women who are still entrenched in male politics about place and importance of women.
These women who “make it”, or who tout that bias against women in the workplace does not exist, are usually the ones who re-seal those small cracks in the ceiling through their support of such a system.

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