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Glass Ceiling

Case Study - Extract : The Mutual Exclusive Ps: Pregnancy & Promotion

by Ines Kistenbrügger

Although pregnancy discrimination is illegal in the US, women still face discrimination when confronting their employers with their pregnancy. In this case study Mary D. has not been granted a promotion and therefore been treated unethically, because managers perceived her pregnancy as an inability to fulfill job requirements.
Although Glass Ceiling is a commonly used term to describe the invisible barrier blamed for limiting the career prospects of females, it is usually only indirectly related to pregnancy discrimination. However, discrimination because of an actual or a possible pregnancy is often a sign of such a glass ceiling.

In 1910 in the United States only 21 percent women were in the labor force. After World War II this number increased to 35 percent because women were replacing men in defense factories. After that the number steadily increased. Today 60 percent of all women work. This is 47 percent of the total labor force. Increased participation of women in the work force can be found worldwide. However there are differences. The rate depends usually on political ideology, culture, religion, and governmental regulations. In socialist societies women tend to occupy about half of the jobs, whereas in countries with a strong cultural and religious belief in women’s role as a mother and housewife, the rate is much lower.

Although European trends parallel the trend seen in the United States, some differences cannot be neglected. The way pregnancy is handled by the government with regards to the duration and pay for maternal and / or parental leave, the rate of woman in management positions is influenced. There is a tendency that the shorter the leave the better the employment level and relationship with the employer. There are also indications that the more expensive a woman’s pregnancy is for a employer the more likely the discrimination.

A community is shaped because of all the people forming the community. Currently more men than women occupy manager positions. If more women enter these higher paid positions, they will contribute to a more diverse community. Since money is often related with power, the female influence and power in a community increases likewise. According to Lynda Lange in Feminist Interpretation and Political Theory women entering the public civil life is against the idea of Rousseau’s "amour propre" and in his view “diminishes men” (102). She points out that this is an example of how deeply the perception of a civil society is male orientated and how women need to increase their influence on society.

Networking is been considered an essential activity for women to improve their professional standing. Internet allows for an easier networking and women’s awareness of their rights has furthermore increased over the years. The more woman enter management or higher paid positions, the more likely they will pull other woman after them.

Future Generations might profit from current trends. However, as concluded by Debra Meyerson and Joyce Fletcher, aiming towards equality is not a revolution but a strategy of small wins. Years ago, gender discrimination was easier to spot in the corporate world, but today overt displays are rare thinking. There is the need to question today’s norms and values. The conflict in our current society is, that women might have the right to being equally treated, however the conditions and circumstances often do not allow for an ideal justice. Pregnancy discrimination is a good example of how the biological difference still is perceived as being a performance difference. According to today’s business reality, an employee with the flexibility to work overtime and travel is a norm. Standardized by a male approach. Therefore, when seeking for a more diverse society with regards to male and female, this standard needs to be changed.

The more women enter higher paid positions the more likely that the male norm will be changed towards a more diverse norm. Affirmative action can be a start to force more women in management position, but is no long term solution. Therefore, women need to be aware of their rights and communicate them. Pregnancy discrimination can be partly avoided, if a woman communicates her professional goal when informing management about her pregnancy. If she can demonstrate, that she is willing to pursue her career, the management itself does not have to conclude based on assumptions.

Download case study: PDF Case Study Glass Ceiling


2004-06-16 Ines Kistenbrügger
aritcle © Ines Kistenbrügger

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