Professor discusses glass ceilings, sticky doors women face

Leila Archer

Lecture kicks off

International Education Week began with a lecture yesterday by Susan Iverson, assistant professor of higher education administration and student personnel, about women, leadership and advancement in the workplace.

Iverson spoke about the ideas of glass ceilings and sticky floors. The glass ceiling, she said, is an “invisible, artificial barrier that prevents qualified individuals from advancing.”

The sticky floors term refers to individuals who are not able to reach the glass ceiling because they are stuck at the bottom in terms of wages, Iverson said.

She identified three areas where women are negatively affected in the workplace: segregation, social networks and stereotyping. Because of segregation, women are less likely to be promoted, she said, and because of stereotyping and social networks, women move or advance within their field differently.

Iverson said her research was with women working in higher education, and she conducted her study at an American university.

Most of the women whom she studied, she said, had been promoted from clerical to professional positions. She found in her research that most women started out in clerical jobs while men may start out in a professional position and never hold a clerical job.

Many of the women also began working without a career in mind and solely for economic purposes, she said.

The women, Iverson said, noticed large differences in their careers after advancement. Some women who did not hold a bachelor’s degree, she said, felt ashamed they worked for the university because they did not have an academic degree themselves.

“You wouldn’t work for Chevy and drive a Ford,” one of the women told Iverson.

The women also pointed out “classist” distinctions, such as parking passes and schedule flexibility, and they said often felt guilty because of their new rules and freedom, Iverson said.

Iverson also pointed out ways to help alleviate these problems. She suggested that companies offer job training and education as well as professional development to help employees develop skills and to “compensate for deficiencies.”

While many people may look at gender equality as a non-issue, Iverson said that it is these people who point out the gaps that still need to be resolved.

“If the problem exists,” she said, “it demands solutions. Not all of the solutions are the end all be all.”

She said sex segregation and workplace discrimination affect the lives of college students because students should be aware of what is really going on.

“It’s about raising awareness about what exists or what doesn’t exist,” she said, adding that she hopes students will be empowered to raise questions and take a stand for gender equality in the workplace.

Contact international affairs reporter Leila Archer at [email protected].