Barriers Towards Representation

At the heart of the underlying issues women face in the workplace setting lies women representation; at its core, it is the key to breaking the lock keeping women from getting to the positions they want to reach. The barriers faced by women are the circumstances that are being manifested that are making it hard for them to obtain a feeling of recognition; they are the situations that are making it difficult for women to rise in the ranks towards higher areas of influence. Male dominance in the workplace seems to be a major obstacle to women in feeling represented and that they can achieve career goals in the workplace. If there are no women in senior positions, or top positions in general, this works to prevent them from working up the ladder of managerial positions. When there are more women, the result is more women are going to get hired and get similar jobs to those of men who otherwise would have those positions. It is important to note that identity is crucial: if all of those in upper positions are men, this in of itself is self-defeating. In order to bring about women representation, first it is crucial to identify some of the substantial barriers faced by the many female employees encompassing organizations across the country. Some of the barriers to be addressed in one form or another include lack of inclusion, diversity, recognition, training, female CEO and executive-level leadership availability, and female role models. The issue as a whole, made up of numerous facets, is that there are not enough women in senior-level positions, and not addressing these areas of importance will only work to prevent women from advancing in one way or another: there cannot be adequate change without a focus on eliminating these obstacles keeping women from reaching their fullest potential, especially when it comes to the corporate sector.

Referring to one study about the representation of women in the working environment, top management women’s prominence on corporate boards was examined for a 12-year period, from 1997 to 2009. Data was analyzed for a range of publicly traded businesses centered in the United States, taken for those on corporate boards and those in senior-level managerial positions. Using the Standard and Poor’s Execucomp database and other affiliated research, the authors compared the title and make-up of sex for the top five executives each firm-year. Exploring the relationship between women representation on corporate boards and the gender ratio between those in top management positions, it was observed that female CEOs saw their ranks increase significantly. “The estimates associate a 10 percentage-point increase in female board membership with a 0.2 to 0.4 percentage-point increase in the probability of having a female CEO, which represents a 9 to 23 percent increase over the sample average[1].” This piece reveals that having more women in top positions potentially has the ability to further increase the desire for women to be hired into top positions, a result that seems to be promising, but, even from these results, we can substantiate that this increase is miniscule in comparison to how many men receive the same or similar positions to women.

In 2020, a positive change in representation of women in high ranking positions does not look that great. As quoted by several notable scholars recently, “The proportion of women falls, however, as one moves further up the managerial ladder: among S&P 500 companies, women make up 44.7 percent of the total workforce, 36.9 percent of line managers, 26.5 percent of senior level managers, and only five percent of CEOs. Women are so underrepresented in the executive suite that just six female CEOs leaving their firms in 2018 caused the total number of female CEOs among Fortune 500 companies to drop by 25 percent. In North America, the year 2018 saw a drop in the proportion of senior roles being held by women (down to 21 percent from 23 percent), although the proportion of businesses with at least one woman in senior management did jump from 69 percent to 81 percent over the same one-year period [2]." From all of this information, it is evident that representation among women in top positions has not really seen much movement, even for a study that began over twenty years ago. While Binder and their fellow scholars noted that there has been an increase in the number of women involved in senior management, this reflection becomes quite shocking when taking into perspective that there were already so few females in prominent positions; there has not been much movement overall, so any that has gone in the right direction takes the appearance of being more dramatic than it should gain credit for.

Together, the findings of Mata and Miller work to reveal how prevalent institutional barriers can be in creating the sex distinction between those involved on corporate boards. This difference “may reflect differences in preferences (where one or both sexes discriminate in favor of members of their own sex) or differences in information (where individuals are better able to interpret noisy signals about ability for members of their own sex) [3]." Building on the barriers to women achieving higher ranks, this piece demonstrates that women are having a difficult time getting those roles because corporate boards, and many positions in general, are highly dominated by white men. The sex difference and male dominance allows for discrimination to take place, which may further highlight a communication difference between the sexes, in which males have a harder time reading the language and signals of females. At any rate, it is evident that the lack of representation stems from this dominance, one which does not seem to be changing in a positive light.

being that the CEO is not verry committed to women’s’ advancement, at a mean value of 2.6, there is no policy that works to remove the barriers faced by females, at a mean value of 1.9, diversity is not encompassed in promotion decisions, at a mean value of 1.9, and, most amazingly, diversity is not publicly recognized, at a mean value of 1.7. With just these observations alone, we can observe that diversity seems to be an issue when it comes to women feeling recognized and valued in the workplace. More importantly, having prominent, passionate role models that are also women seems to be an influencer that can give women the sense that they are being represented and acknowledged. If there is a lack of diversity, as indicated from this survey, it also follows that women are not being given the same worth as their male counterparts, especially when it comes to promotions. Seeing how many felt as though their CEO did not commit to their development, it is plausible that their CEO might have been a male, which seems to be an issue when it comes to women feeling connections and identity with those of higher ranks than when they are not of the same gender.

From the results of this survey, it was found that, shockingly, none of the initiative scales managed to meet the 3.0 mean value. As quoted by the authors, “the women in this study do not believe that their organizations have successfully implemented initiatives to help women overcome barriers to their career advancement. Only six of 40 items fall at a mean of greater than 3.0, and only one item (women are given assignments in line areas) of the 40 falls at mean greater than 3.5 (all items within category m = 2.3) [4]." Thus, we can conclude that, in this particular instance, many of the women involved felt as those their company did not reflect individuality and diversity, or even recognize it, which invokes the importance of there being figures in certain roles contrary to the norm, such as there being women in upper to top management areas of labor.

Reflecting on all of these significant points of focus, we can observe that not a whole lot has been achieved in regard to breaking the barriers surrounding women’s ability to be recognized and break the glass ceiling. While there have been some likely promising results, as a whole, the influx of cases in which women were negatively affected and treated discriminatorily overshadows any resemblance of advancement in the right direction. The fact of the matter is that all of these issues immensely need to be examined and approached with rigor to have any means of shattering the glass ceiling. That is not to say that no progress has been reached, though overall, it does not seem as though the changes have been impactful by any means indicative of greater societal reformation. From this discussion, one major perception that becomes apparent is that diversity, among other things, is absolutely crucial. Without diversity, there cannot be any form of change; each individual barrier is reliant on the notion of women being included and given the ability to express themselves, adapt, and reach new highs in their careers. And, with diversity, the importance of having women in prominent positions that represent those below them becomes ever more impactful in giving women the tools to better their circumstances. Representation is absolutely everything when it comes down to the documented barriers.


[1] Matsa, A. David and Amalia R. Miller. “Chipping away at the glass ceiling: Gender spillovers in corporate leadership.” American Economic Review101(3), 635-639, (2011).

[2] Binder, Bettina C. K., Terry Morehead Dworkin, Niculina Nae, Cindy A. Schipani, and Irina Averianova. The Plight of Women in Positions of Corporate Leadership in the United States, The European Union, and Japan: Differing Laws and Cultures, Similar Issues, Michigan Journal of Gender & Law 26, no. 2 (2020): 279-340.

[3] Matsa, A. David and Amalia R. Miller. “Chipping away at the glass ceiling: Gender spillovers in corporate leadership.” American Economic Review101(3), 635-639, (2011).

[4] Jackson, Janet C. "Women Middle Managers' Perception of the Glass Ceiling." Women in Management Review 16, no. 1 (2001): 30.

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