By Melody R.K Frempong

The term Glass Ceiling is metaphorically used to represent invisible or unidentified barriers that keep or prevents people for example minorities (women etc) from advancing beyond highly esteemed levels in a hierarchy. Everyone can experience Glass Ceiling at the workplace, at any point in time, however, since the term was coined by feminists with regards to the barriers encountered by women with high achieving spirits or goals, most people tend to believe that Glass Ceiling is a feminist concept. Nonetheless, since women are more likely to encounter such invisible barriers that prevents them from moving to high levels, Glass Ceiling has been recognized as a “feminist term”. Example of Glass Ceiling occurrences among women are, being denied salary increment, being rejected for promotions several times although you have the necessary qualifications not being able to enter certain places or attend certain meetings as a woman and less political participation among women.

Scholars have also identified that Glass Ceiling may emanate from individuals’ factors such as lack of self-determination, organizational factors-a male domineering field, or a male-oriented field, family factors- childcare and influence from spouse cultural factors- gender beliefs roles, etc. According to the Glass Ceiling Index 2017, by the economist, Glass Ceiling among women has become slow but stable for the past years in developed and developing countries such as the U.S., Germany, Japan Turkey, Netherlands, among others.

However, in Nigeria and Ghana, Glass Ceiling is still prevalent likewise other African countries. For instance, the BBC reported there about 5 countries in Africa that have a lot of women in the cabinet. Thus, the representation of women politics or decision making is very low in Africa with just a few countries who have quite a large representation of women in politics. As reported by the BBC, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa Seychelles and Uganda are the African countries which have quite a large number of women in the cabinet. Although Glass Ceiling is an invincible barrier, its social and economic impacts on women are enormous as well as on the nation.

Some of the impacts of Glass Ceiling on women’s social and economic development are:

-It thwarts and suppresses opinions, initiative, and interest in organizational leadership

-It fosters and creates an inferiority complex in women.

• It denies women to express their potentials and makes them limited and confined to only lower or “dead-end levels” within their institutions and also reduces their possibilities for advancement.

• Glass Ceiling leads to a lack of high profile women role models for subordinates. And this given no room for subordinates to have mentors in their lives as they have no one to look towards to

• Glass Ceiling increases labour turnover or decreased labour retention and loss of productivity since women are suppressed in giving out their best

• It is also worth noting that Glass Ceiling may lead to instability in families and can cause disharmony.

Due to the adverse impacts of Glass Ceiling policies have been implemented to curb this problem. Examples of such policies in Nigeria and Ghana are:

Ghana: National Gender and Children Policy(2004) which was implemented to promote the welfare and development of women in all aspect. Similarly, in Nigeria, a Gender Equality Bill was proposed recently which is yet to be passed and the National Gender Policy has also not implemented. The Nigeria National Gender Policy (2006) which puts in place structures to support the empowerment of women and gender equality has not translated into opportunities in terms of quality representation or appointments for women in both economic and political sphere. This implies that indeed policymakers need to be on their toes in breaking the barriers women encounter in their various sphere of lives. However, we will only address the symptoms of Glass Ceiling if we rely on policy measures to curb the situation. It is very evident that tackling Glass Ceiling with policy measures has not been sufficient in solving the problem. Therefore, it is important that women as the major stakeholder of this problem take up bold steps by fighting this cankerworm. In order to address this, women and the public as a whole must first acknowledge that Glass Ceiling exists. If it is not acknowledged first, hardly will it be addressed. As the saying goes “an identified problem is the one that needs a solution”. Thus, if there is an awareness, there will be a conscious effort to break it.

More importantly, women must believe in themselves that they can break the glass. Another means through which women can break the glass is to develop their potentials and market their skills in order to enhance their social and economic value. Women must be proactive and visionary and take opportunities as they come regardless of their awareness of Glass Ceiling. Finally, women must act as support systems for each other, by not keeping silent when they realize a fellow woman is struggling to break the glass. This could go a long way to falsify the statement that “women are their own enemies”.

Melody R.K Frempong, is a Gender and Development Consultant with Women Africa.

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