The Glass Labyrinth.

by Leslie Morgan Steiner


Not sure about you, but one phrase I’d like to mothball for 2011 is “glass ceiling,” that invisible barrier preventing women from achieving the pinnacle of career success. Many women have shattered the glass ceiling, making the metaphor moot even for those determined to break through to the echelons of their profession. Millions more don’t care to, finding greater value instead in a pragmatic balance of economic security, job satisfaction, and time with family.


This is not to say gender bias and barriers do not exist. They do. These stubborn, pernicious obstacles have derailed many smart, ambitious, well-educated women. However, the more apt term heading into 2011 is “glass labyrinth” – the confusing maze of bias and solutions confounding women at all career levels, ethnicities and ages.


Fortunately, in a recent issue of Forbes, Joan Williams, the founder of the UC Hastings Center for WorkLife Law, and author of Reshaping the Work-Family Debate supplied a few powerful torches to lead us out of the darkness.


Here are Joan’s three formidable resolutions for 2011 – backed by 35 years of gender research.


Get serious. Don't accept any assignment on top of your existing workload – particularly a feel-good assignment targeted towards diversity -- unless your organization values the contribution enough to devote a budget and administrative resources needed to implement it.


At my most recent job, I was asked to pinch hit for a woman who’d recently been fired for ethics violations. No increase in salary. I remember feeling immensely flattered that my bosses believed I could do two jobs at once (while I was pregnant with baby number three). I was sure they’d reward me come bonus time. Looking back, part of why I was asked was because I was a new employee, and thus too naïve in corporate practices to ask for a salary or bonus bump. Other employees wouldn’t have been so trusting.


Sure enough, I never got financial compensation for working two fulltime jobs at once. Two years later I had to force my way off the ridiculous double job burden. The moral of the story? If your organization values the increased responsibility, they’ll pay for it. Additional responsibilities may well hurt your career if they require you to spend time, with administrative support, on activities that distract you from activities the organization truly values and rewards.