The glass ceiling. It is a term that has been in circulation for almost three decades now which was made in reference to an invisible barrier. This barrier tends to target females without regard to their education, commitment or capabilities. The term dates back in print to 1984 and has been utilized ever since to address the ever so frustrating issue of women in the workplace.
The United States is a land of equality and equal opportunity, debatably. Specifically looking at corporate America, gender plays just as much of a deciding factor in some regards as a person’s educational credentials. Alice Sargent put this into print in 1987 in her book, ‘The Androgynous Manager,’ “Women in corporate America are bumping their heads on the glass ceiling” (Bradley, 2011). 1987 was over twenty years ago when this issue first started getting publicity. Unfortunately, the topic is still debatable today and stretches outside the borders of the United States.
The United States has made strides to dismiss this term and take the glass ceiling out of existence. Even with these first attempts dating back to the 1980s, some would say we have not completely shattered the ceiling yet. Sandra Day O’Connor was a face of hope for many females. She heard her initial case as the first woman on the Supreme Court thirty one years ago. Today, females comprise of almost half of all graduating law school students, and yet only represent less than one-third of American lawyers (The New York Times, 2011). A 23 percentage point earnings gap stands between the genders in the workforce as well (Lang, 2010). These statistics don’t give credit to changes that have been implemented, however, they do highlight that we cannot be satisfied with the present.
However, women in America are not the only ones who have encountered strife. The strides that the U.S. has been able to achieve have not been so attainable for countries across the sea. The Middle East and North Africa have been taking steps towards equality between women and men, but a prevalent gender-based gap remains (Freedom House, 2010). In order to help combat this, many strides have been taken to secure women with the same rights males’ experience. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, has been a face for women’s rights over the past decade and she has not limited her assistance to just the United States.
In 2011, Clinton launched a program that embraces her vision of “smart power.” In hopes to equip women of the Middle East and North African countries (MENA) such as Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Yemen, the TechWomen program aims to harness the power of technology and innovation to empower women and girls. The initiative partners women from MENA and the United States “for a professional mentorship and exchange program at leading companies in the United States” (TechWomen, 2011). By utilizing the resources available and giving them opportunities to pursue careers, the hope is to support the next generation of women in technology-based fields.
On September 5, 2012, 42 women from the Middle East and North Africa arrived in San Francisco to launch the TechWomen program. With their American counterparts, they are beginning their five-week long mentoring program. Further in the year, the American mentors will take a trip to the Middle East and North Africa where they will have workshops for women already in the technology sector, and for young girls interested in pursuing the field. Thirty leading U.S. technology companies are serving as mentors this year, ten more than the inaugural group in 2011 (U.S. Department of State, 2012). The TechWomen program implements professional and cultural enrichment activities that empower both sides of the partnership, giving hope and creating relationships.
The glass ceiling may still be a thing of the present, but with programs such as TechWomen, it is being more than cracked. This program creates international relationships that better educate both sides, in addition to empowering women. The pairing of cultural enrichment and knowledge growth has the potential to be a deadly combination for the glass ceiling.