Handbook of Gendered Careers in Management
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Handbook of Gendered Careers in Management

Getting In, Getting On, Getting Out

Edited by Adelina M. Broadbridge and Sandra L. Fielden

Handbook of Gendered Careers in Management provides an international overview of current practice and theory surrounding gendered employment in management, illustrating the impact of gender on key stages of career development.
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Chapter 12: Women’s beliefs about breaking glass ceilings

Paul Smith


There is clear evidence that men maintain a far higher proportion of leadership and upper management positions than women in many countries such as Australia (Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, 2010), Canada (Catalyst, 2012), China (Forsythe and Zhao, 2011), Malaysia (Ahmad-Zaluki, 2012), South Africa (Booysen and Nkomo, 2010), UK (Thomson et al., 2008) and USA (Powell, 2012). However, when speaking at corporate workshops for managers I make an impact with two trivia questions, each with a big message. I often begin a training session on breaking glass ceilings with the following question: ‘How many men and women have walked on the moon?’ A trivia buff might call out the generally accepted answer: ‘12.’ Actually, it should be a two-part answer. For men, the answer is 12. For women, the answer is zero. Twelve to zero is not a rational distribution because in many ways women are better suited to space travel than men (Weitekamp, 2004). The message? Gender-based inequality not only exists on earth, we have spread this phenomenon to the moon. Obstacles created by men have been placed in front of women for a long time. For example, there are 3218 names in the Bible but only 181, that is less than 6 per cent, are female (Caroselli, 1998).

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