A study released in February by the University of California Davis on California Women Business Leaders revealed an overall hostile corporate environment for women in California.
According to the results of the study, women hold only about 10.2 percent of the combined board seats and highest paid executive officer positions, and more than 25 percent of companies have no female board members as well as no female executive officers. Such statistics have prompted professors and specialists of women’s studies to reestablish their perspectives on women and the overall power structure.
“This report is certainly not surprising,” said Dianne Bartlow, a professor of women’s studies at CSUN.
“We live in a patriarchal society with a patriarchal ideology that is espoused and permeated in all major institutions, especially the legal field, health field, some organized religions and even within the family,” she said.
Even so, there are a number of institutional reasons that make the career ladder for women a more challenging and cumbersome climb.
According to Jane Bayes, a political science professor who specializes in women and politics, there are three dominant institutional reasons for gender disparity in the corporate world.
“It is first a question of human capital (which) includes both education and socialization of both sexes,” Bayes said.
“The situation will persist if they are not trained in these aspects from early on,” she said.
The second is a structural reason.
“There is occupational sex segregation in which most women are funneled into careers such as nursing, teaching and retail,” Bayes said.
Bayes sees the relative gender and race homogeneity characteristic of many companies to be perpetuating the problem of discrimination for women as they try to move up the corporate ladder.
“A certain mass of different people is necessary for employees to be comfortable around each other, and many corporations don’t have that,” Bayes said.
Bartlow has seen how a male-dominated work environment works and how their agenda is blatantly manifested in their business.
“In one entertainment company that I used to work at, men were promoted at a much faster rate than were women, who were roughly in the same position,” she said.
Not limited to gender bias, discrimination of all kinds plays a significant role in the male-dominated work force.
“Racism as well as sexual discrimination has an important impact on how women are going to be moving forward,” Bartlow said.
In order to be able to move forward, struggles women experience within themselves also need to be addressed.
“Women do have child bearing responsibilities that can make progress in the corporate world a challenging feat, and even if the woman does have children, she needs to be super mom to be able to compete,” Bayes said.
Internalized oppression is also how women themselves help to maintain the status quo.
“Many women believe in and internalize a notion of inferiority that may keep them from progress,” Bartlow said.
But why does California specifically lag so far behind in terms of women gaining power in corporate America?
“It could be that the majority of entertainment industries that are based in California, and the great majority of their executives are men,” Bartlow said.
The “glass ceiling” is a term widely used by scholars of women’s studies and students alike that refers to the dominant situation in which top-level management in businesses is often occupied by males. It is a glass ceiling because women are perceived to be limited in terms of how far they can move up the ranks and is transparent glass because the limitation is not clearly obvious.
Beyond realizing the problem, it is imperative that women and men alike work together to transcend gender-based barriers.
“(The study) is a sad reflection of the fact that we just have not come as far as we think we have,” said theater major Raychel Espiritu. “Women need to begin spreading the message that it is alright to be assertive.”