The glass ceiling

Type: Assignments

Subject: Nursing Leadership Course

Subject area: Nursing

Education Level: Undergraduate/College

Length: 2 pages

Referencing style: APA

Preferred English: US English

Spacing Option: Double

Instructions:Module Three:  Women and Leadership: Economic Issues Related to Women in Leadership


Introduction to the Module

Lack of opportunities for women has historically resulted in diminished economic power for them in society. They have long been dependent, because of social structures, on men for their economic well-being. From the time of industrial revolution until very recently, women have been expected to resign from their career aspirations upon marriage or motherhood. Women have historically been expected to make choices different from those afforded by men.


Impact of Great Depression and World War II

The video, A Century of Women: Part 1—Work and Family demonstrates how the Great Depression affected opportunities for women to maintain autonomy and economic independence. This was caused due to shortage of jobs in America that led to the rule of only one job per family. Our culture and traditions required that the employed family member would inevitably be the man. Subsequently, the woman's role, defined as a homemaker and supporter of the male household head, was reinforced. World War II provided "new" opportunities for women to enter the workforce, particularly in traditionally male work roles, but that was short lived. When the men returned home from war, women were relieved of their industrial jobs and expected to return home to their family caretaking responsibilities. This kicked off the era of the 1950s that defined success for women in terms of marrying well, becoming mothers, and raising children. The resulting "feeling" for women of needing more was well documented and described in Betty Freidan's The Feminine Mystique.


Work Value

With women expected to provide for families and communities, in ways that were not financially compensated, a cultural "understanding" of the value of women's work continued to emerge and solidify. In the video, A Century of Women: Part 1—Work and Family, an effective discussion about women's choices between work and children is presented. It is noteworthy that the clip ends with the statement, "women's work has no value." In this video, many statistics are given to show how women’s work is undervalued:

What is the Glass Ceiling?

The "Glass Ceiling" is a concept that refers to the supposed upward mobility of a given group (in this case, women), yet the practice that there is a certain level beyond which members of the group do not succeed. The glass ceiling can refer to pay equity, position achievement, social networking, and access to opportunity. James W. Lowen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything your American History Textbook Got Wrong reflects that the omission of mention in our history textbooks of the social, political, and economic structures preventing women and other traditionally underrepresented groups from leadership roles in our society has resulted in an "understood" sense of inequality in role expectations.


Listen to the audio clip from Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything your American History Textbook Got Wrong.


This is an example of how the Glass Ceiling becomes accepted in our society. We are simply taught to accept limitations because we don't see examples of upward mobility among certain groups, even though, in our culture, we are also taught that if you work hard enough you can achieve anything.


Shattering of Glass Ceiling

You are probably familiar with the term "shattering the glass ceiling" which refers to an instance where a historically unachievable milestone has finally been reached. President Obama is a great example of an individual who shattered the Glass Ceiling for black Americans in politics. Lilly Ledbetter spent her career at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company pushing for women's achievement of equal pay for equal work. Unfortunately, Ms. Ledbetter was never able to receive the compensation she deserved during her career, but she was instrumental in bringing the issue to light and in the passage of the Fair Pay Act of 2009. She addressed the Democratic National Convention in 2008 to tell her story and urge the passage of the Fair Pay Act:


A written copy of Lilly Ledbetter's speech is available at:


How do women position themselves for leadership and achievement beyond the traditional Glass Ceilings?

One of the important ways that women have been able to take control of their destinies, and define for themselves the extent to which they choose to focus on career or family, and find a balance between the two, has been through the emergence of family planning and birth control availability. Margaret Sanger is attributed with a major move forward for women in this area. Economic well-being, and the ability to both be economically advantaged as well as make economic contributions to families and communities is possible because women (and their partners) have choices about balancing their life roles. Watch this clip about Ms. Sanger:


Good to Know!


To know more about Margaret Sanger, visit:

To know more about Lilly Ledbetter, visit:,8599,1874954,00.html

To watch Lilly Ledbetter telling her story, click the link below:

Does the Glass Ceiling Exist Today?

Do some quick research of your own to answer this question. At Ohio University's Athens campus there are five vice presidents and nine deans. There is one female vice president, Provost Pam Benoit, and one female dean, Dr. Renee Middleton. Of the Fortune 500 companies in the United States, there are 12 female CEOs. For more information about Fortune 500 and 1000 companies and their female CEOs, see:


Take a moment to think about your reaction to these facts. Are you inclined to "explain away" the reasons for the absence of women in leadership positions? What are the historic and cultural explanations you are identifying? You might be shocked at these numbers and wonder why there are not more women in leadership positions. Consider the barriers to women. It could be networking, mentoring, a 'good old boys' system that doesn't recognize the need for diversity, a conflict for women who have the potential to lead to enter into a position where our culture doesn't embrace the "real life" of women as mothers, family members, and executives. What other barriers can you identify?


As you complete the readings for this module and explore economic aspects of women and leadership, be sure to review information and ideas from previous modules and apply synthesis to your understanding of this content. And, finally, watch Sheryl Sandberg discuss her ideas about why there are too few women in leadership today: