As women, sometimes it is far too easy to blame the trials and tribulations of entering the business world on men. We believe that our male counterparts will never be able to see us as more than sex objects or as volatile, hormonal creatures. If we are lucky enough to attain a powerful position in a company or firm, we will eventually hit a glass ceiling, restricting us from reaching our full potential.
In the 21st century we now see women, on their own merit, being promoted and achieving major accomplishments. With examples like Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, Yahoo’s CEO Carol Bartz and other female CEOs heading major companies like Pepsi, Sunoco and Western Union, it is apparent that women are changing the business world. In business, as well as in other fields like law and medicine, women are contributing alongside, and in some cases surpassing, their male colleagues.
While today seems like an ideal time for a young woman to enter the workforce, she is actually faced with a new challenge. This phenomenon is what I would like to call “Glass Ceiling with Lipstick” – where older, successful women are barring entry to young women because they perceive these younger counterparts as threats to their positions. They feel these younger women are more energetic, capable, tech-savvy and attractive, making older women feel replaceable and no longer desirable in the space they helped to create.
One result of this phenomenon is that when hiring, women will tend to choose a male candidate over an identically qualified female. Women now see their younger counterparts in the same light as men did decades ago – as potential maternity leave candidates. Powerful female executives are likely to say, “Take my husband, but don’t take my job” and are ruthless in protecting their stake or position, instead of mentoring and empowering a younger generation of women.
Back in the day, the barriers to entry for women, put in place by men, were clearer and identifiable as sexism. Sexual harassment is the term used for the harmful attitudes and actions women face in male dominated spaces. We now have clear boundaries of appropriate behavior between men and women in the workplace. But do we have these same definitions for emotional harassment inflicted by a woman to another woman? Can we call a woman who deliberately hires only men a sexist?
Sisterhood is powerful, but instead of collaborating and helping each other, women have actually walked right into men’s shoes.
So just how far will women go to thicken the glass ceiling?