GLASS CEILING EXISTENCE IN CHINA
Gender equity, equal employment chances, and financial inclusion are some of the pertinent issues on the allocation of economic opportunities between men and women that the world is facing. Historically, the latter has always been marginalized. Actually, marginalization is the main reason why most of them lag behind in social, economic, and political affairs. In order to curb this trend, there has been an increase in research with an aim of empowering the female gender to be affirmative by taking leadership roles when given the opportunity. Nonetheless, despite the advocacy for equity in these roles, there still exists a huge gap between both sexes. Essentially, men by far outnumber women, especially in the top management levels. Primarily, this problem is due to the existence of a “glass ceiling” which prevents most women from progressing beyond a certain level in their career. Predominantly, this phenomenon is experienced in patriarchal societies such as China, Africa, and the Middle East countries.
The term glass ceiling was first coined in July 1979 at a conference of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press. Simply put, the glass ceiling refers to the unseen or invisible barrier that hinders the minority and women from reaching the top of the corporate ladder. According to Cotter et al. (2001), a glass ceiling has the following attributes:
- Initially, there is the gender or racial inequality present in a career, which increases with the employment hierarchy.
- The presence of sex or racial difference is greater at higher job levels than in the lower ones.
- There is gender or racial difference that is not a characteristic of the employment description or work requirements (Meyerson & Fletcher 2000).
Moreover, the employee being discriminated may have likable characteristics such as he/she is hardworking, diligent, efficient, and reliable. Further, this discrimination is present despite the violated individual having excellent academic qualifications. Essentially, the worker may only get a promotion up to a certain level. In effect, he/she only has a horizontal career progression.
With increased globalization and participation of all genders in economic affairs, now more than ever before, China must ensure that all its citizens have equal economic and employment opportunities. Generally, there has never been any woman leader in the Chinese Politburo Standing Committee, which is the country’s highest level of government (Miller 2015). Similarly, this trend is across the public and private sectors in the country.
Nonetheless, the government has been trying to reduce this gap. In part, this problem is a result of the patriarchal Chinese culture. In addition to this, issues such as differences in education levels and qualifications, discrimination, and the level of commitment needed for work play a major role in emboldening and enforcing the glass ceiling. Consequently, a significant number of women have not been able to progress in their career. Basically, discrimination at the employment level has resulted in unfulfilled potential since businesses unknowingly ignore talented and qualified female employees. This paper aims at understanding the cause and effects of the glass ceiling in China. Further, it seeks to find ways of eliminating this form of discrimination in order to ensure there are equal opportunities for people of all sexes.
Most individual believe that they will have a better career once they perfect their skills through either training or acquiring additional education. While this may sound logical, in practice, this is not always the case. Other underlying factors such as the availability of a better career, gender discrimination, work commitment, and culture play a big role on whether a person finds a better employment. Chiefly, the glass ceiling is the main limitation among the female gender. In this regard, the research question in this paper is as follows: What is the extent of the glass ceiling in China?
Given that there are various social and cultural issues that limit women from getting leadership positions, this paper will focus on understanding the causes of this problem. In light of this, the research objectives of the paper are as follows:
- Understanding the Chinese culture and the way it promotes the glass ceiling.
- Evaluating the role that various education concepts in promoting discrimination.
- Analyzing if some type of managerial and leadership roles are unsuitable for women.
- Forming an analysis of the situation in China and providing insight on various policies needed to break the glass ceiling.
Cultural Role in Promotion of the Glass Ceiling
The traditional Chinese culture was essentially patriarchal in nature. Basically, the Chinese family setting, which continues to be the ideal in most homes, is structured in such a way that women have minimal economic roles. According to Leung (2003), the Chinese family setting was masculine with a rigid hierarchy of authority based on the Wu Lun, or “five relations.” Ideally, the Wu Lun was composed of the ruler-ruled relationship. In this case, the father ruled over the son, elder brother over younger brother(s), husband over wife, and friend over another friend. Primarily, the society had an unequal dyadic relationship in which males were dominant. Xie (2011) emphasizes that the Chinese families are patriarchal, patrilineal, patrimonial, and patrilocal. In light of this, women are severely disadvantaged when compared to men.
Actually, this family set up espouses that the men should take care of their aging parents and the family at large. On the contrary, women are only temporary members who move out of the family once they are married. Consequently, it is in the interest of the parents to give more opportunities such as education and inheritance to their sons than to their daughters. Indeed, sons in China provide more assistance to their parents than daughters (Chu, Yu, & Ruoh-rong 2011). Overly, this skewed allocation of resources and opportunities in favor of men leads to the development of the glass ceiling.
Similarly, the patriarchal culture in China has for a long time limited female progress since their roles are limited to domestic duties (Lockwood 2004). According to Holst & Busch (2009), higher managerial positions require a lot of commitment, which may be difficult for women to achieve. In general, most of them have social and family duties to accomplish. Consequently, these obligations limit their ability to participate in employment. Effectively, domestic and family obligations create a glass ceiling.
Simply put, government policies are rules and regulations that a country sets to direct individuals, organizations, and institutions under its jurisdictions. Importantly, these policies have an ability to influence the career progression of various individuals while limiting some people, especially when they are discriminatory. In 1993, the Interim Regulations on State Civil Servants brought issued a policy that legalized men to retire at sixty, ordinary women at fifty, and women cadre at fifty-five. Expressively, the former were given a bonus five years to advance their careers in senior management positions and supervisory roles (Liu 2015). Noteworthy, most leadership roles require an individual to have a lot of experience. Consequently, by women in China retiring at an early age, they usually do not have the opportunity to work at these levels. Therefore, early retirement is a glass ceiling.
Similar, no woman has ever held a position in the Politburo Standing Committee, which is the highest level in the Chinese government (Miller 2015). In part, this shows the undermined position of women in leadership roles in China. Moreover, the presence of the ‘sticky floor’ has seen the gap in the gender pay increase for several decades (Eisner 2013). For instance, in the 1990s the gap in the gender pay in China was at 77.5%, however, it was still high at 76.3% in 2010 (Eisner 2013). Ideally, this shows that despite increased efforts by the Chinese government to eliminate the glass ceiling; this vice still exists. Basically, this wage gap is the reason for the continued progress in men’s career while women lag behind.
Chiefly, gender equality can be termed as the presentation of similar opportunities for both male and female. Gender equity can best be seen from the onset of birth and calculated using sex ratio at birth (SRB). Simply put, SRB is the ratio of male to female born at a given period. Normally, the SRB is usually between 103 and 107; however, it stands at more than 107 in China (Barreto, Ryan, & Schmitt 2009). Consequently, this means that the numbers of males born in China are higher than females. Ideally, the one-child birth policy in China has resulted in a male dominated society. In turn, it is only natural for most of the employment position, even at the senior positions, to be held by men.
In all societies, education plays an important role in human advancement through impacts on political, social, and economic developments. Although China has made significant improvements in the education sector, there is still a wide education disparity among men and women. A survey by UNESCO-UIS 2013 revealed that the literacy levels in China have significantly increased. For instance, as per 2010, 97.5% of adult men and 92.7% of the females were literate (UNESCO-UIS 2013). Nonetheless, the odds were against the latter with them having more illiteracy levels by 5% (UNESCO-UIS 2013). On a positive note, the literacy levels are higher among young adults who are between 15 and 24 years with 99.7% of all the children being highly literate (UNESCO-UIS 2013). The huge literacy gap among the older generation is due to inadequate education facilities during their childhood age. Evidently, the literacy gap among this population also means there is a gap in employment opportunities with the males having better chances of getting senior positions.
Notably, data from the 2000 National Bureau of Statistics of China (2016) showed that the basic education attained by women was at 42% and that of men was lower at 38%. However, those women who received medium-based and higher education held lower positions than their equally competent male colleagues. In general, this implies that education improvement for men was more than that of women. As a result, the former have higher academic qualifications. In addition, 2000 population census done in China revealed that the sex ratio for students doing postgraduate was 146 male students for every 100 female. Consequently, men have better opportunities of getting promotions and advancing their careers than women since they are more skillful. From this perspective, there is a glass ceiling effect brought about by education.
Employment Ratio According to Gender
As aforementioned, there has been an increase in the education levels in China among all sexes. Importantly, this increase in education has led to higher employment levels of women. Noteworthy, despite the increase in employment levels, the gap in earnings has continued to increase (Hauser & Yu 2005). In a recent study conducted by Li and Xie (2013), they found that women earnings between 2010 and 2012 were 70% that of men. Additionally, the study revealed that the latter had higher chances of getting employment in middle-level and higher-level managerial positions as well as politically based offices.
Structure of the Dissertation
This paper will have a detailed literature review, which will discuss on the discrimination that women face in employment, the role of tradition in promoting the glass ceiling, as well as culture. In addition, there will also be a comparative analysis of the glass ceiling in US, Europe, and Asia. Further, the paper will have a methodology section, which will have the research approach, purpose, and the secondary data sub-sections. In order to give a review of the methodology section, this paper will have a findings and analysis section. Finally, there will be a reference list section.
To sum up, it is ‘a man eat woman’ society in China due to the hindrances present on female gender career advancement. Importantly, the Chinese government needs to improve its legislations in terms of policy. Further, the education level, family role, gender disparity, and employment ratios should be corrected in order to empower Chinese women. Finally, there is a need to sensitize the society on the importance of equal allocation of employment, financial, and economic opportunities since true change must begin from the mind.
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