The glass ceiling and the next generation

Summary:Isn't it about time we really take to the 21st century, and let women unholster their weapons and shoot out the glass ceiling? I think so and the majority would agree, but nothing seems to change.

The metaphorical glass ceiling exists still for too many people in the IT community. The ability to look up and see people, often men, progressing further in the company hierarchy but not being able to pass through it, is still a major issue on the agenda for women's rights groups.

Eileen Brown, a good friend and unfortunate casualty of the Microsoft redundancies, considered whether men were to blame for the credit crunch. In this, Robert Peston, possibly the sole cause of the collapse of an entire UK bank, wrote:

“The conventional explanation is that it’s a manifestation of the glass ceiling, of sexism in the City (and in politics, and in the public sector). Which is to say that women had a lucky escape: they are only innocent of this particular crime against global prosperity because men unfairly elbowed them out of the way in the unseemly race to the top.”

After speaking to Eileen, also a strategic panel member of the BCS Women's Forum, she "truly believes that the old boys network is alive and well in most companies", a reference to male-only private school graduates which cling onto the ledges of aristocracy and social elitism.

The key point here is equality: women are not trying to get automatic rights and hand outs, but the equal chance and possibility that those of men have.

From the Associated Content:

"Specifically, in the Information Technology field, there has been significant evidence which shows that both women and minorities have been prevented from attaining their true potential and have been undermined when it comes to wages and executive positions in this particular industry.

The problem in a wide range of careers had become so troublesome that The Glass Ceiling Commission was created as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Its responsibility was to identify glass-ceiling barriers in order to promote employment opportunities for minorities and women, however barriers in the IT profession still need to be further discussed."

Currently there is a case of weighing up the negatives between men and women in higher position jobs and jobs which demand more responsibility. Women sometimes choose to start a family which would allow them to take a year out of their jobs. If that job is a chief-executive position, the argument goes that it would be irresponsible and detrimental to hire that women in the first place.

Spinning this argument around, men are nearly three times more likely to develop antisocial personality disorder, symptoms of which would be catastrophic for a chief-executive position. My argument in this case is that I would prefer a woman who would leave after six months to start a family, than a man who is more likely to suffer from a condition which disregards safety of others, is impulsive with a lack of remorse and with a risk of stealing.

Smashing the glass ceiling shouldn't just be a hope or a dream. Articles out on the web describe and explain how to take on this barrier and progress further and higher in the IT industry. But it isn't the company as an entity which is the problem; the problem lies with the attitudes of the existing corporate aristocracy.

The first black British police chief-constable, Mike Fuller of Kent Police, believes he set an example by being promoted to the head of one of the biggest police services' in the UK, and therefore proved there is no glass ceiling. Without wanting to cause a riot, there have been hundreds of years of black oppression whereas women of any background, ethnicity or culture are still being discriminated against.

Female leaders in technology met up this week at Stanford University to discuss how to get more women involved in technology. The ZDNet video can be viewed here. For female university students looking to break through the glass ceiling, the University of Westminster have a dedicated guide to run through.

Are you in the IT industry and faced the glass ceiling? What advice would you have to the next generation of IT workers?

Topics: IT Employment, CXO

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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