Women Face Glass Ceiling in Hiring

Part 1: But Can You Type?

Bisuness Woman Trapped in Glass office. Getty Images

Imagine you make reservations at a restaurant that is famous for preparing a special chicken dish, which you order when your day to dine arrives. The waiter looks at you and says "No! I think you'll like the fish dish better." He hurries away to put your (his) order in before you can protest. Imagine now, that it's not a meal, but your career course that is being decided by someone else. Someone who thinks he or she knows what would be a more suitable track for you.

When I graduated from college and began interviewing for jobs I found out that my ability to type was more important to prospective employers than my degree was. I wasn't naive. I knew I wouldn't have a secretary to do my typing, and as a matter of fact I'd probably start off as someone's assistant and have to do his or her typing. This was a necessary step to get where I eventually wanted to go as I advanced up the corporate ladder. I was right about that, but here's where I was wrong. I thought male graduates would have to do the same thing to get a foot in the door. One late Spring day I discovered the sad truth.

I saw an ad for an employment agency that claimed to have job openings available for recent college graduates in a few different majors. My major, marketing, was one of them. I quickly called to arrange an appointment. When I arrived at the agency's office I was given an application to complete, and then was interviewed by a placement counselor who went over my resume.

"Very nice. We have some administrative assistant jobs, just to help you get a foot in the door," she said and then asked me to take a typing test. She led me to a testing room where I sat at a desk that faced the door. She gave me some time to practice before starting the test. While I was practicing, a young man walked into the office.

I recognized him as being someone with whom I had taken some classes in my major. I planned to say hello when he joined me in the testing room. He never did. I saw him complete the application and saw him interviewed by the same placement counselor who had interviewed me. It was obvious it was their first meeting. Next thing I knew she was on the phone with the personnel (now called human resources) office of one of the agency's clients. "We have a great candidate for you. He's young, bright, and just graduated. I think you should interview him for that marketing assistant position." "Hey, wait a minute," I thought. "What about his typing test?"

I was being placed on one career path while a man with a similar background was being placed on another. I checked around. I wasn't the only woman facing this problem. This was happening to my fellow female graduates as well. It wasn't exactly discrimination since they weren't refusing to hire me because I was a woman. They just tried to push me onto a career path that was different than the one I desired.

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Part 2: A Brighter Future

The aforementioned story happened in the late 1980s. Hopefully things have changed since then, and will continue to change in the future. If employers don't allow females to embark on the same career path as their male counterparts, they will run out of qualified candidates to fill many job openings. In the United States, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, September 2013, in 2012 colleges in the United States awarded 57% of all bachelor's degrees to women.

The pool of qualified candidates coupled with the needs of the market should allow more female graduates to get on their chosen career track. One can only hope. A recent article in the New York Times discussed the problem recent female graduates face in Japan ("Diploma at Hand, Japanese Women Find Glass Ceiling Reinforced With Iron." New York Times. January 1, 2001). It seems these women, all with highly desirable skills, all graduates of prestigious schools, were being pushed onto a secretarial track or into dead end jobs. Their male counterparts had an entirely different experience when going through the interviewing process. This was a recent article, not something written ten years ago. Japan has a national equal opportunity law, and yet many employers didn't pay much attention to it. According to the New York Times article, they thought it was proper for a woman to get married and raise a family, while her husband built his career.

This in spite of an impending labor shortage in Japan.

How could a woman be expected to break through the glass ceiling if she can't even get on a career path that brings her close enough to touch it? Why should the opportunities available to a woman be less than those available to a man, given both have the same number of years of education, the same degree from the same institution, and similar skills?

Many employers claim it's because young women stay on the job for a few years and then leave to have a family. Let's look at this from another angle. Perhaps if women were offered a sufficient amount of maternity leave, salaries equivelent to those of men doing the same work, adequate childcare, and the possibility of corporate advancement they would continue to work. Maybe if all employees were offered the opportunity of a flexible work environment, i.e. flextime and telecommuting options, there would be greater retention of good employees. And what if men were encouraged to, or rather weren't discouraged from taking paternity leave. Then women wouldn't have to take as much time away from their jobs when a couple starts a family.

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Part 1: But Can You Type?

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