Impact of Glass Ceiling Factors on Women Career Development in IT Companies in Sri Lanka.

Date01 October 2023
AuthorMandakini, U.L.S.A.,Sangarandeniya, Y.M.S.W.V.,Mandakini, U.L.S.A.^Sangarandeniya, Y.M.S.W.V.


Career development is the most significant component of employee satisfaction and retention in an organization (Shabbir et al, 2017). Greenhaus et al. (2010), defined career development as a lifelong process of becoming aware of, exploring, and experiencing factors that influence various aspects of a person's life. According to the Sri Lanka Labor Force Survey Annual Report (Department of Census and Statistics, 2019), the economically active female representation in Sri Lanka remains at 35.4%. Further, when considering the female occupational group, the professional occupation represented 13.5%.The manager and senior officials denoted 6% while the male counterparts accounted for 8.4%. The same survey results showed that the proportion of female employees with secondary and higher education is greater than that of male employees; while the female education level remains at 11.9%, the males was at 5%. The female education level is high in Sri Lanka compared to men. Still, women employees' representation in the managerial occupation is less than of male counterparts.

The glass ceiling is a metaphor that describes the barriers experienced by female employees when they advance through the organizational hierarchy (Kulik & Rae, 2019). 'Celling' stresses the limitation to the upward career progress of women is subjected to; and 'Glass' referred to the fact that though the limitation is apparently not written in any rule book, it is nevertheless an established fact understood by both genders (Bhatnagar & Mathur, 2015). However, the obstacles to women achieving high managerial positions in an organization are a universal phenomenon (Sharma & Kaur, 2019). Some prior researchers have assumed that the glass ceiling included various barriers such as personal, family, organizational, and cultural barriers which are less substantial and are surrounded by the culture and the society (Powell & Butterfield, 2003). These are identified as artificial barriers while the level of education or career breaks are identified as natural barriers.

The present study differs from the previous one in the following respects. Some research studies have been investigating the impact of the glass ceiling on female employees' career development considering one factor at a time. That means considering only the impact of personal barriers or organizational barriers or societal barriers on women's career development. Therefore, this investigated the impact of the glass ceiling including personal, family, organizational, and cultural factors on women's career development. Further several research studies have been done in the western context. Some studies have attempted to find out the applicability of this in the Asian context. However, in the Sri Lankan context, few research studies were done relating to this topic in the banking and Garment industries. We could not find a single study relating to the Information Technology (IT) industry. Hence, there is a contextual gap that warrents more research studies and come up with findings and conclusions to rectify the problem. Therefore, this study sought to fill the research gaps by examining the impact of glass ceiling factors on women career development with special reference to the IT industry in Sri Lanka.

Statement of the Problem

In today's competitive world retaining talented employees is very important. To retain the employee in the organization, it is necessary to give proper concern about employees' career development. Female labor force participation has increased all over the world during the last few decades (Kiaye & Singh, 2013). However, women's participation in the formal labor market is lower than men's. The Sri Lankan ICT workforce is still largely constituted of men (Weerasinghe, 2018). Hence, it can be identified as a male dominant industry. Further, many jobs in the IT industry especially managerial positions are considered more as masculine than feminine (Gutek, 2001).

After having an interview with an HR manager in a major IT company, we could identify that women have fewer career development opportunities than men. The organizations give priority to men's career growth because most female employees leave their jobs in the middle of their careers. In the exit meetings, the organizations found that female employees leave jobs due to difficulties they face in order to develop and progress in their careers. Typically, female employees have to face barriers such as personal barriers, those from the family, obstacles within the organizations, and simply because of the culture as an Asian country. However, there is equal opportunity for men and women in entry-level job positions. Still, unfortunately, proportionately, less number of women reach middle and top management levels since they have to face glass ceiling factors while advancing in their careers.

When female employees face discrimination in career growth and face difficulties in career advancement they are not committed to work, they cannot give their full potential to work, and their motivation and performance decrease; their productivity declines, and ultimately they may leave the organization. Due to these unfavorable consequences, there is an immediate necessity to resolve this problem.

Victor and Shamila (2018) indicated that personal factors, family factors, organizational factors, and cultural factors have a negative relationship with women career development. However, Victor and Shamila exposed an insignificant impact of organizational factors on women career development. On the other hand, Uduwella and Jayatilaka (2019) found that personal factors have a significant positive impact on women career development while organizational factors have a significant negative impact on women career development and cultural factors have not had any impact. Thus there are contradictory findings in the extant literature. Further, in the Asian context, there were several studies done to investigate this problem. However, in the Sri Lankan context, there was no study to investigate this problem in the IT industry.

Objectives of the Study

I. To identify the impact of personal factors on women career development.

II. To identify the impact of family factors on women career development.

III. To identify the impact of organizational factors on women career development.

IV. To identify the impact of cultural factors on women career development.

V. To assess the association between glass ceiling factors and women career development.

VI. To identify the most significant among the selected four glass ceiling factors that influence women career development.

Women Career Development

Sears (1982) defined career development as the total assemblage of psychological, sociological, educational, physical, economic, and chance factors that combine to form the individual career over a life span (as cited in Nassredine & Easa, 2020). In Sears' definition, career development is emphasized as an assemblage of several forms. However, Greenhaus (2010) in his definition emphasized the ongoing series of stages characterized by unique concerns and themes.

The women's career development process was examined by O'Neil and Bilimoria (2005) through the path of work-related experiences over the life course; career pattern, the personal and professional factors and relationships impacting those paths; career context and the set of beliefs that direct those work experiences; career locus and career beliefs. Moreover, they mentioned that women's career patterns are characterized as ordered or emergent. On the one hand, they suggested that an ordered career pattern consisted of stable, predictable movement through the organizational hierarchy which is strategically planned and executed, reflective of the choice of learning opportunities, and involved long-term planning to accommodate other life roles. On the other hand, an emergent career pattern reflected career moves that are more reactive than proactive, unforeseen twists and turns, disturbances for non-career activities and aimed to accommodate features of one's career other than traditional work.

Further, career locus referred to the main idea from which career orientation, motivation, and success originate O'Neil & Bilimoria (2005). According to an internal career locus reflects the belief that individual females are in charge of creating and managing their future careers and are responsible for their own career success. Further, an external career locus reflects the belief that an individual's career success and opportunities are due to chance or good fortune, external interventions such as others offering...

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