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Conferences | Archives | Channels for Change '96 | Keynote Address

Keynote Address: June 5, 1996

Good morning. [Thank you Donna Terazawa] and [Thank Carolyn Leighton and Julie Lubbering] and I extend warm appreciation to WITI for being a "Champion for Change."

It seems rather fitting that the theme for this conference is Channels for Change and that we are celebrating Women in Science and Technology Month here on the edge of the Pacific Rim. Technology, much of it born in Silicon Valley, has enabled us to channel many resources around the globe almost instantaneously. Indeed, if we are truly living in a global village, then California surely is its central square.

California has always been known as America's incubator. It is here that daring dreams have so often become innovative realities to be shared with the rest of the nation and the world. The desert transformed into rich farmland; flickering moving pictures turned into vast and lucrative television and film industries; vehicles that send women and men into outer space all call California home.

Science and technology provide the knowledge that drives the future. The reapplication of technology to multiple uses offers opportunities to help achieve equality, development, peace, and serves the interests of both women and men by improving living conditions for families.

We do not yet live in a color blind or gender blind society. Discrimination, sexism, racism, and xenophobia live side-by-side with unemployment, underemployment and poverty; they feed on one another and perpetuate a cycle of unfulfilled aspirations among women and people of color. The glass ceiling is one manifestation of the perpetual struggle for equal access and equal opportunity.

Thousands of qualified women and minority men are finding their careers stopped by invisible barriers. But instead of calling it racism or sexism, we call it the "glass ceiling." Let's not get sidetracked by semantics. For people confronting these barriers, it's discrimination plain and simple.

Many of you have confronted your own glass ceiling barriers in the executive suite and throughout all levels of the work force long before the Wall Street Journal highlighted the problem in March 1986. Many disciplines and professional fields related to science and technology have long been dominated by male scientists, technicians, managers, and policymakers.

Though women and minorities have made significant strides in reaching upper levels of management over the last 30 years, strong evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, document that it is still overwhelmingly a white man's world in the executive suite and boardrooms.

"Good for Business: Making Full Use of The Nation's Human Capital," the fact finding report, and "A Solid Investment: Making Full Use of the Nation's Human Capital," the recommendations report, come at time when programs and policies long accepted as necessary to insure that women and people of color are treated fairly and equitably in the workplace are the subjects of fierce debate.

Decades of hard won civil rights gains are now being threatened; public policies are being scrutinized under ever stricter legal microscopes, and an atmosphere of unease about the future pervades our national consciousness --a future beset with economic challenges from abroad, technological innovation at home, a demographic revolution in our work force and a restratification of society, which Secretary of Labor and chair of the Glass Ceiling Commission Robert Reich has characterized as "the revolt of the anxious class."

The world has changed. This new era of economic dynamism and possibility marks the end of the old era of stable mass production. We have moved from the farm to the assembly line, and are en route from the assembly line to the computer. Information technologies, combined with global trade and worldwide investment, have shifted the economic ground we stand on.

The fact finding report, Good for Business highlighted some of the most telling data. Simply put, surveys of the top Fortune 1000 industrial and 500 service companies show that 95 percent of senior level managers are men and of that 95 percent, 97 percent are white.

That translates into slightly more than 2100 senior women executives in these companies -- far too few in proportion to their numbers in the work force. And only five percent of these senior women are minorities.

This at a time when there are nearly 60 million working women in America, more than 45 percent of the U.S. work force. Women and minorities are two-thirds of the population, two-thirds of consumers and 57 percent of the work force. Women constitute 35 percent of the world's labor force, and projections indicate that the number continues to rise.

Glass Ceiling research reveals that women of all racial and ethnic groups are most likely to be employed in the service industries and in finance, real estate, wholesale and retail trade. Nearly 75 percent of employed women work in these industries.

Women seem to have the greatest opportunity for advancement in industries where change like deregulation and restructuring is occurring such as telecommunications; fast growing industries such as business services; and those with female intensive work forces such as finance, real estate and human resources.

Women are moving up the corporate ladder. Surveys show that between 1982 and 1992, the proportion of women holding the title of executive vice president rose from 4 to 9 percent. Those at the senior vice president level rose from 13 to 23 percent.

And a recent study by Catalyst shows a growth of women on the boards of directors of the Fortune 500. Eighty-one percent or 404 companies - now have one or more female directors, up from 376 companies last year. But there are still only two women CEOs.

Yet despite the steady increases, women still hold only 1 in 10 board seats. It is time for corporations to move beyond the "quota of one" and more fully tap the talents of a rising tide of female leaders.

This progress does not necessarily mean that the earnings gap between female and male executives is disappearing. Surveys show women executives in 1992 earning an average of $187,000 and men earning an average of $289,000 - a difference of $102,000 in average annual compensation. US Census data reported the ratio of female to male earnings in management jobs ranged from a low of 50 percent in the banking industry to a high of 85 percent for human services managers.

Equal educational attainment does not guarantee fair compensation. Regardless of credentials and preparedness, the return on investment or income, continues unequal. All women have considerably lower mean incomes compared to their male counterparts. It is this wage discrimination or pay inequity that is an indicator of the existence of glass ceilings.

Why does the disparity continue? It's not because women are not prepared. The number of women holding bachelor and post graduate degrees has steadily increased. And more and more postgraduate degrees are in the field of business management and law - the credentials that are now considered prerequisites for senior management positions. Despite identical education attainment, ambition, and commitment to career, men still progress faster than women.

What's really going on here is more a matter of perception than statistical fact. The majority of CEOs who participated in a survey conducted for the Commission believed that women - white and non-white - no longer confront serious glass ceiling problems. In 1990, Financial Women International surveyed male CEOs and female vice presidents on the existence of a glass ceiling. 73 percent of the male CEOs didn't think there was a ceiling; 71 percent of the women did.

Surveys explode some other myths about women executives. They work long hours - 56 per week on average - the same as their male counterparts. Only 14 percent refused to relocate as compared to 20 percent of the male colleagues. And only a third of the women surveyed had ever taken a leave of absence and 82 percent of these were for maternity or other family reasons. Yet stereotypes and misperceptions about women malign and impede us from consideration for career opportunities.

Statistics and anecdotal data do not confirm the perception, now gaining unwarranted credibility, that women and minorities have made wholesale gains in the workplace at the expense of white men. To the contrary. Research suggests that the underlying cause for the existence of the glass ceiling is the perception of many white males that they as a group are losing - losing competitive advantage, losing control, and losing opportunity as a direct consequence of inclusion of women and minorities.

As President Clinton said, "Women are beginning to participate more fully throughout this country in the life of America. As far as I know, the sky is not falling anywhere."

What kind of barriers prevent the advancement of qualified minorities and women? The Commission identified three levels. They are:

Societal barriers, which include a supply barrier related to educational opportunities and the level of job attainment. An issue of preparedness.

There is also a "difference" barrier manifested through conscious and unconscious stereotyping and bias. It translates into a syndrome that people who do the hiring feel most comfortable "hiring people who look like them." Stereotypes must be confronted with hard data because, if left unrefuted, they become factual in the popular mind and reinforce glass ceiling barriers.

Governmental barriers include the collection and disaggregation of employment related data which make it difficult to ascertain the status of various groups at the managerial level. Also, there continues to be inadequate reporting and dissemination of information relevant to glass ceiling issues. Most important, there needs to be vigorous and consistent monitoring and enforcement of laws and policies already on the books.

Internal structural barriers or business barriers include:

  • Outreach and recruitment practices that do not reach or recruit women and minorities;
  • Corporate climates that alienate and isolate;
  • Pipeline barriers that restrict career growth because of poor training, inadequate mentoring, biased rating and testing systems;
  • Few or no internal communication networks;
  • Limited rotational job assignments that lead to the executive suite;
  • And institutional rigidity that deny the fragile family and work balance.
  • Without access to mentoring, developmental assignments, training, and other career enhancing activities in the managerial pipeline, too many qualified people are stopped short, before they fulfill the promise of their abilities.

    Government - society -must respond, but cannot do it all. So to what extent can we rely on the private sector? Do companies have an obligation beyond the bottom line?

    Corporate leaders must recognize that they need the talent and input of women and minority men at the highest levels to better address the changing consumer markets, the changing work force demographics, and international competition in today's global economy. By the year 2005, women and minorities are estimated to be 62 percent of the U.S. workforce.

    Glass ceiling barriers do affect the bottom line of every business in America and internationally. Conducting business as usual will be the business of the past. And some say that business as usual has been business of preferential treatment for a particular demographic group.

    Breaking glass ceilings is an economic imperative. It is a financial issue for corporations and a pocketbook issue for working families. Until the primary source of discussions, programs, and policies about glass ceilings, diversity and affirmative action focus on the business objectives of an organization - hence the need to be productive, profitable, competitive, and resopnsive to the changing demands of a global marketplace - the discourse will continue devisive and progress will remain painfully slow.


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