The term ‘glass ceiling’ was coined by a management consultant, Marilyn Loden at a panel discussion in 1978. The glass ceiling is an invisible barrier that prevents certain demographic groups (usually with regards to women) from reaching beyond a certain level in the hierarchy at the workplace. This barrier has its foundation on sexism and gender bias and restricts the career of deserving individuals.
Around four decades later, unfortunately, we are still struggling with the same. It is the trajectory of capitalism in any country in the world that determines the demand and supply of labour. In India, where even today, female representation in the workplace is essentially low, women have always been contributing to the economic system. However, much of this work has never been recognised as a contribution, leading to work stress that can impact our mental health.
Back in the day when most women didn’t have paid employment, they were taking up domestic duties that enabled other members of the family to go out and work. In fact, with reproduction, women have also been responsible for building human resources. Unfortunately, none of this unpaid contribution is recognised or valued by our society. And decades later, today, even in paid employment, women are expected to accept much less pay and appreciation than what they deserve.
This barrier of the glass ceiling not only affects our career and financial goals but also our mental wellbeing. Here’s how.
It impacts your job enthusiasm and performance
It is a vicious pattern; the glass ceiling hinders your job enthusiasm, which in turn deteriorates your performance. This can further limit your career growth, thereby frustrating you further. “Studies as early as the 1911s have identified that one of the earliest contributors to job satisfaction, enthusiasm, and performance is based on the reward system and income level that existed in the organisation. Due to the systematic bias created by the glass ceiling effect, women are often denied the same rewards/benefits and prevented from rising beyond a certain level in a hierarchy,” explains Mehezabin Dordi, a clinical psychologist at Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai.
“With the advent of modern times, women are equally qualified and trained. Not being able to attain the same level of success despite having similar backgrounds because of this bias can severely impact job enthusiasm and performance,” Dordi adds.
It leads to overall emotional exhaustion
Dordi pointed out that the glass ceiling, along with other psychological factors, can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout in women. Women going through menopause and other factors like hormonal changes, post-natal depression, the society-led guilt of being a working mother, and other things, in amalgamation with gender bias at work, can lead to emotional exhaustion.
It is even more frustrating because their career growth is inhibited, not due to their own lack of skills, but because of patriarchy in organisations. “In examining the causes of this issue, the glass ceiling and the factors affecting its development are the first subjects to be addressed. Accordingly, the absence of women in executive management positions is not due to lack of managerial skills, but due to cultural factors or organisational culture dominating highly patriarchal organisations,” Dordi adds.
It leads to chronic stress, anxiety, depression and other health issues
How many of our friends are actually navigating the corporate world with the utmost ease? The thing is that work culture and what is considered professional, often isn’t very conducive to the happiness of employees. A little ease and a little bonding won’t diminish productivity. Working smartly is better than overworking. To the grim work environment, add the frustration of the glass ceiling hindering your progress, and you have the perfect formula of chronic stress.
“The realities of the workplace can have a direct effect on people’s health and wellbeing. A stalled career and the inability to gain a higher income can leave you with a bundle of mixed feelings, such as self-doubt, a sense of isolation, resentment, and even feelings of anger,” says Dordi. “These feelings can spill over into every area of your life,” she points out.
“Women tend to have anxiety and depression more than men. In 2016, a study suggested that gender discrimination at work, which includes unequal opportunity and the wage gap, maybe a contributing factor,” Dordi explained. Dordi also said that these mental health issues can further cause physical problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc.
How to take care of your mental health while confronting gender bias at work
Several women drop out of the workforce, overwhelmed by the glass ceiling and the mental trauma it can cause. Dordi advises on how you can take care of your mental health, so you can stay strong.
- Be on the lookout for symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Exercise regularly. Do not neglect your physical health.
- Find ways to ease stress, such as yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises.
- Make time for purely recreational pursuits to help relieve stress.
- Improve your sleep habits to promote a better night’s sleep.
- Connect with others. Family and friends can provide emotional support. Being connected with individuals in your life is very important.
- Network within your field. Find mentors who can lift you up. Mentor those who are following in your footsteps.
- Follow positive affirmations for yourself. Maintain a mood journal and write down instances that evoke negative moods in you.
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