Decades Later, Women Still Bumping Into Glass Ceiling

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Thirty years ago, women made up 45 percent of the workforce in the U.S.  By 2016, that number had risen to 47 percent.

Long after the term “glass ceiling” was coined, women still struggle to make it to top-level management positions.  KELOLAND”s Angela Kennecke did a series of reports back in 1992 on the glass ceiling and looks into how much progress has been made in the years since those stories.

One thing is for sure, fashion sure has changed since 1992.  But one thing that is not so certain is how much progress women have truly made in the workforce.

We catch up with a couple of women interviewed back in 1992 and here’s what they had to say about whether the glass ceiling has been shattered.

Angela Kennecke in 1992: Today 50 percent of all women work. Women have made significant gains in entry level jobs and first levels of management. But according to the Department of Labor, most women reach a point in their career where they don’t go any further. Those higher up positions are out of reach. 

Back in 1992, women held only two percent of upper level positions in companies.  Today, women make up nine percent of top level management positions in corporate America; that’s only a four percent increase in nearly 30 years.

“And so the glass ceiling, are we breaking through it? Not as quickly yet–there’s a lot of reasons,” Margaret Sumption said.

Margaret Sumption is a career and executive coach. She was also part of that KELOLAND News Glass Ceiling Series back in 1992.

“If a man is selected, the qualifications don’t have to be as high, the education doesn’t have to be as high.  The level of experience and references from other people don’t have to be as glowing and the money is always better,” Sumption said in 1992.

Sumption had just started her own business after a man was offered more money for a position she turned down due to low pay.

“Now I need to write a thank-you note because it really did change my life,” Sumption said.

Sumption says after dealing with sex bias in the workplace, she needed to become her own boss.

“I can’t look back and be disappointed about my decision at all. I can only be excited that the gig has lasted 28 years and I still have plenty of work to do,” Sumption said.

In 1992, KELOLAND News also talked with women about to graduate from college about their career outlook.

Angela Kennecke in 1992: Jen is planning on getting into the administrative end of health care.

“It’s a great field to get into and I’m really excited about choosing that career,” Jen Porter said in 1992. 

Angela Kennecke in 1992: Jen isn’t expecting any trouble getting to the top level of management.

“I think there will be a lot more women in health care, ” Porter said in 1992.

“Young, naive to the realities of what it really means when you get into the working world,” Porter said.

Naive or not, Porter’s predictions about her career have mostly come true.

Kennecke: You are in health care administration; that’s what you said you were going to do.
Porter: Yeah.
Kennecke:  You have the word executive after your name. So do you think you’ve shattered the glass ceiling?
Porter:  I would say, yeah, in many respects I have.

It didn’t come without a lot of hard work, but even all that work and ability wasn’t enough to capture the title of executive.

“I didn’t realize you how much you have to actually be your own cheerleader–you have to fight for yourself,” Porter said.

Sumption believes in today’s working world, women still have to work at least twice as hard a man to shatter the glass ceiling.

“Women have to be in service longer, make greater contributions and great contributions over time to be given the opportunity to master the next level,” Sumption said.

Sumption says millennial women are more likely to leave a job, rather than wait around for a promotion, which is making it harder for companies to retain highly competent woman employees.

We’ve working on a special featuring South Dakota women who’ve made an impact on the state. Don’t miss the “Celebrating Women” special on Friday, March 8 at 6:30 p.m. CST on KELO-TV.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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