Invisible Mechanisms


Invisible Mechanisms Essay, Research Paper

anonymous Dr. Mannly

Sociology 2-29-00

Invisible Mechanisms

The glass escalator is the term the author uses to define an invisible phenomenon she sees propelling men in women s fields of work. Williams is certain that men are pushed ahead when in predominately female jobs and slightly skews her research data because of this slant. Although she jumps to her conclusions at times, overall Williams comes up with satisfactory findings based on thorough research techniques that men and women are not equally represented in certain professions because of discrimination.

A saving grace of Williams paper is that she states on the first page: Although there are many possible reasons for the continuing preponderance of women in these fields (nurses, elementary teachers, librarians and social workers), the focus of this paper is discrimination. (Pg. 295) She states that men are pressured to move out of traditionally female held positions to higher status, and usually higher paying, jobs simply because they are male. She also says that men are given this positions on a much more frequent basis not based on merit, but because they are male. The problem with this opinion of the author is that the interviews she uses as support for it are far from definitive. One of the first examples used is that of a male kindergarten teacher who received a city-wide teacher of the year award. Williams says that obviously because he is being pushed towards administration, this is the glass elevator at work. Is it so strange that someone receiving a city-wide award for excellence in a field would receive encouragement to be in charge? People are usually pushed ahead in fields because they are viewed as unusually competent, and this would definitely appear to be an instance of this occurring. I would like to know what Williams criteria are for advancing in fields outside gender if she considers being recognized by an entire city as extraordinary at a job to be a poor construct for being pushed ahead at a job. Are there instances of females winning these awards who receive no push towards administration? The reader does not know this, and Williams just assumes that this supposition is true.

William s very next example is of a librarian who works in children s collections receiving bad marks on a 6 months job evaluation because he is not shooting high enough (Pg. 298). Williams takes something which I believe is normal and while perhaps not free of a glass elevator, certainly understandable before putting it in the equation. The criticism the librarian receives is for staying with an entry level position which does not even require the degree he has, and where he is exhibiting a high level of competence. Working at a library is no different from working in any other profession in terms of job advancement. Someone with an advanced degree in a field who shows work which is outstanding is going to be pushed for advancement, regardless of sex. The subject in this interview does say that his superiors say that they expect him to be more ambitious because he is male and right out of graduate school. I believe his superiors may be thinking that because he is male and recently out of graduate school that he would be ambitious, but they would not attempt to accelerate him if they did view him as markedly competent at his work. Also, ten years in an entry level job would be seen as strange in any profession where the subject shows unusual ability.

In one area the author seems to have actually swayed her subjects opinion by an extremely non-objective line of questioning. The more I think about it, through our discussion, I m sure that s a large part of why I wound up in administration . . . in fact, I don t know if I fully answered a question that you asked a little while ago about how being male contributed to my advancing in the field. (Pg. 299) The man here goes on to say that because he is male he feels he competed for the job more fiercely than would a women. Since when is being ambitious a male trait? There are female judges on the supreme court and Hillary Clinton among other women (Elizabeth Dole) strive extremely fervently in the political arena for more prestigious jobs. My point of skewing the data the author is collecting can be found in the quote above being male contributed to my advancing in the field, Williams phrases the question in such a way as to insinuate that being male is in itself a method of advancing in a field.

Lastly I have problems with Williams findings involving nepotism on the bottom on page 301. She says that a male nurse who only received marginal grades on performance was given a prestigious position in the emergency room by virtue of being friends with the physician in charge. Nepotism is a sex neutral mechanism as far I am concerned, and females have been advanced as well as males in lieu of any actual competence but sheerly on connections in many professions. The author seems to be stretching every interview to get as many examples as she can to back up her theory.

Overall, I do agree with William s findings on the existence of a glass elevator in female dominated professions. I only disagree with some of William s methods for backing up her theory. An author should not try to support a theory with as biased data as I have discussed here. William s other opinions I have problems with she herself later discredits, such as women s positions seen as a step down for men. She states merely 6 lines after this that most of her male subjects deny any perception of their jobs as thus. Williams states that The stereotypes that differentiate masculinity and feminity, and degrade that which is defined as feminine, are deeply entrenched in culture, social structure, and personality. (Pg. 309). I have nothing but support for this statement and the later one she makes involving lower pay in women s jobs as a reason for males not flooding such professions as not the only . . . impediment to men s entry in these fields (Pg. 309). There is definitely a mechanism at work for men in women s professions aiding them. What I believe is Williams best quote is hidden in the middle of the paper: The crucial factor is the social status of the token s group not their numerical rarity that determines whether the token encounters a glass ceiling or a glass elevator. (Pg. 308).



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