Navigating the Career Labyrinth

A glass ceiling is a metaphor first coined by Marilyn Loden, a mid-level manager at a New York Telephone Company, in 1978. It represents a distinct invisible barrier that prevents women from rising above certain levels in their career despite dedication, excellent credentials, drive, and ambition—ultimately impacting life-long earning potential, confidence, social status, which often results in emotional fatigue.

Eagly and Carli Article

According to Alice Eagly, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, the glass ceiling metaphor is dated and incomplete.  In their Harvard Business Review article, Eagly and Carli discuss the sum of obstacles along the path into the C-suite that often prevents access. They assert that a labyrinth better describes the barriers and unforeseen twists women face on their career journey. “In truth, women are not turned away only as they reach the penultimate stage of a distinguished career,” Eagly and Carli wrote. “They disappear in various numbers at many points leading up to that stage.” I like to think of the career labyrinth as “chutes and ladders” at every year-end review and review for possible promotion; for women, the odds of landing on chutes exceed those of her male counterparts, while her odds of ladders are far lower. 

Often, women find themselves caught in a ‘double bind,’ trying to meet conflicting expectations expected to be sweet and gentle while taking charge and leading assertively. Challenges exist, envisioning oneself navigating a labyrinth allows one to embark on the path that is not linear. Instead, it is a journey of twists, turns, obstacles, and opportunities for growth, challenge, and fulfillment. Women are navigating their career labyrinth, establishing talented and supportive social networks serving as their “social capital.” Research shows that quality mentorship for women, especially in male-dominated careers, is tied to their career growth and development.

Progress in the Making

Notable progress occurred over the last decade. We have seen improvements, particularly in the entry and advancement of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Women in STEM careers not only ensure a more diverse workforce; these careers carry status while reducing the pay gap. Workplace equality is trending. In 2019 we saw that thirty of the most used hashtags were #WomenInSTEM to #PressforProgress and #WCW (Women Crush Wednesday).

During this challenging time of a pandemic, regardless of where you lean politically, we can all unite in applauding Kamala Harris, a “tangible female inspiration.” She’s been taking down barriers throughout her career. Becoming the first black female district attorney of San Francisco and the first woman attorney general of California, she restores hope by what she has done and continues to do inspiring women everywhere.

Photos courtesy of Deposit Photos

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2020-08-18