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Glass Slipper or Glass Ceiling?

November 14, 2008


Somehow, I got into an argument about sexism with my significant other this morning. It came up last night but I wanted to sleep on it, so we discussed it this morning. I’m not one of those ultra-feminists, but I do believe that women are equally capable as men but are not afforded equal opportunities. He doesn’t think that women are less than men, however he thinks “there’s a reason there are more men CEOs,” and he doesn’t think that reason is cultural.  He thinks that we have moved so far past where we were 50 years ago, that cultural norms are not holding women back.

I grew up liking to think that I could do absolutely anything and that my gender would not be taken into account. I even went through a brief cowboy phase (not cowgirl, cowboy). I’ve been around long enough to realize that this isn’t actually true. I’m just going to post a few food-for-thought bits:

“Women who are really highly successful, they are just as bad as the men. They think if they can do it, anyone can do it. They don’t see that for every woman who makes it to the top there are 10 more who are passed over. And I am not making this up, that’s what the data show.” -Ben Barres, previously Barbara Barres, a neurology professor at Stanford, quoted in The New York Times. “I think people do what they are rewarded for doing, and I think women realize, whether it’s conscious or unconscious, they are not going to get the rewards. So they put the hours into their families or whatever. That’s just a guess.”

From ABC news: “Gee, that Ben Barres’ work is so much better than his sister’s.”

So my question is, why does the glass ceiling exist? Is it put in place by overtly sexist pigs who want to keep women down? I really doubt it. Is part of the glass ceiling the idea that women want it all: they want the Prince Charming to come save them, shining glass slipper in hand, while they go out and save the world?

How is it supposed to work?


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