sealPurdue News

December 1997

Management expert: Top jobs still out of reach for most women

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Research on women in management positions suggests that women are cracking, but still rarely breaking through, the corporate "glass ceiling."

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The study, co-authored by Jodi S. Goodman, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Purdue University's Krannert Graduate School of Management, notes that although the percentage of women in management positions has grown from 18.5 percent in 1970 to more than 40 percent today, only 3 percent to 5 percent of top managers are women.

"We've come a long way in diversifying the workplace, but finding women in top management positions in American corporations is still rare," Goodman says.

The glass ceiling is an invisible, but often impenetrable, barrier between women and the executive suite.

According to the study, compared to companies with no women in top management jobs, companies that have women in top management positions:

"Of course, the last characteristic is less than desirable for women," Goodman says. "We're not sure if salaries decrease as more women enter management ranks or if men are leaving lower salaried jobs for higher pay in other companies, creating opportunities for women."

Goodman says that since the inception of the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, created by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, there are more women in all levels of business and in many fields that were previously dominated by males. The commission has helped women advance in business by identifying and reporting on barriers that keep women from entering management positions.

Goodman's study found that the more women an organization had in lower management positions, the more likely the company was to have a female in the top ranks.

"Most glass ceiling studies focus on characteristics of individual women, such as education and work experience," Goodman says. "We studied the employment practices of 360 private sector businesses with 250 or more employees -- and how those practices affect whether or not women are in the top management ranks."

Goodman suggests that women hoping for the keys to the executive washroom do their homework on potential employers. And she says to look beyond the company handbook.

"Promotion policies can be different from promotion practices," she says. "Talk with someone in the company to find out what their hiring, development and promotion practices are."

Goodman also suggests seeking out assignments that offer as much visibility and authority as those of male counterparts.

The research of Goodman, Terry C. Blum, professor of management in the Dupree School of Management at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Dail L. Fields, assistant professor of human resource development at George Washington University, focused on organizational variables that affect whether women attain top management positions. The research was presented at an annual meeting of the Academy of Management.

Source: Jodi S. Goodman, (765) 494-4485; e-mail,
Writer: Kate Walker, (765) 494-2073; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,


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