Glass ceiling effect, the barriers that prevent women to become senior managers, still effects women employees in 21st Century. However, recent researches indicate that women more tend to exhibit today’s prominent leadership style, transformational leadership behaviors, than men. Basing on these findings, this research examined whether women can overcome these barriers by utilizing transformational leadership behaviors. A grounded theory approach was followed to analyze the data gathered by conducting semi-structured interviews with women senior executives of the prominent IT Sector firms operating in Istanbul. As a result, a theoretical model explaining the path of women employees from glass ceiling barriers to senior leadership was introduced. The research findings indicate that participants exhibit transformational leadership behaviors, and most importantly the female instincts of the women executives are in accordance with transformational leadership behaviors. Consequently, it was defined that women mostly affected by individual barriers, and are able to overcome glass ceiling barriers by relying on their feminine instincts that are strictly in accordance with transformational leadership behaviors.
Keywords: Glass ceiling effectTransformational leadershipGrounded TheoryIT sector
The role of women in society, women rights, gender equality, women in business, woman as a mother and woman as a wife, carrier woman, super women and many other concepts have been the subject of women studies for years (Helson, 1972; Kabeer, 2005; Stoltz-Loike, 1992). A wide range of concepts and issues indicate that women confront various problems that have not resolved yet, and from another perspective indicate the richness of female identity.
The increase in women education level and participation of women in professional life with the 1970s; the debate about
Although the findings indicate that women employees are still under the effect of glass ceiling, in recent years researches conducted on women leadership proposes that women executives tend to exhibit transformational leadership behaviors (Abolade, 2014; Adesua Lincoln, 2012; Folta, Seguin, Ackerman, & Nelson, 2012; Growe & Montgomery, 2000; Paulišić & Božac, 2013). Transformational leadership theorized by Bernard Bass (1985) is a prominent leadership style in today’s turbulent business world that represented with four dimensions: Idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. Common vision, cooperation, communication, ethical and moral values, integration are the featured key concepts of this leadership approach. The leaders that have these features are also responsible for building an organizational climate to achieve these concepts.
In this research, it was assumed that the increase of women senior management rates may associated with the transformational leadership behaviors of women executives, and the idea of this research emerged
Literature Review and Research Questions
Glass Ceiling Effect
The glass ceiling effect issued in literature for the first time with the article of Hymowitz and Shellhard in 1986 and defined as the barriers that take place just under the top management level in organizational hierarchy and prevent and restrict women to raise senior management level (Dreher, 2003). In March 1995 official report of Federal Glass Ceiling Commission-operates under US Labor Department-the glass ceiling barriers were grouped under 3 titles: societal barriers, internal structural barriers and governmental barriers. Commission defined the glass ceiling as invisible barriers that constrain women and minorities, regardless of their qualifications and achievements, from climbing up to upper stairs of organization (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, 1995). The definition reflects not only workforce inequality but also discrimination, the other important point is that the term glass ceiling did not associated with solely women employees, involves also the minorities in workplace. Cotter et al. (2001) also defined glass ceiling barriers as a specific kind of discrimination related to race and gender inequalities, and based these barriers on 3 three reasons: 1) The perception of ‘no chance to be a senior manager because of their gender’ of middle level women managers may lead to pessimism and discouragement, 2) Lack of gender diversification in top management levels, 3) Gender related barriers, observed in hard workforce market, may affect negatively the procurement of needed competencies and resources.
Many researches were carried out on glass ceiling phenomenon, and the barriers commonly classified under the titles of societal and organizational factors (Growe & Montgomery, 2000; Samineni & Reddy, 2013; Truman & Baroudi, 1994; Virick & Greer, 2012). According to research findings, stereotypes, social roles, familial responsibilities, work-family conflict are commonly confronted societal barriers by women employess; and the organizational barriers are informal networks, organizational culture, lack of role model and mentor, discrimination, prejudices about women’s leadership skills and capabilities, and queen bee syndrome (Truman & Baroudi, 1994; Growe & Montgomery, 2000; Ahuja, 2002; Katz & Salaway, 2004; Virick & Greer, 2012).
Transformational leadership-coined by McGregor Burns (1978), theorized by Bernard Bass (1985) and gained a different perspective by Peter Senge’s (1990) systems thinking-is a prominent leadership approach in today’s turbulent era. Burns (1978) considered transforming leadership as an interactive process that leaders and followers raise each other to upper levels with regard to motivation and morality. Transforming leaders raise the level by appealing to high ideals and values of their followers. Bernard M. Bass, a student of Burn’s, excluded the idea that transforming leadership arises only in the upper levels of organizational hierarchy and developed a new leadership theory that based on new paradigms of
According to research results it is expected that more women executives -have the feature, or potential of transformational leadership style- are represented in senior management. Grant Thornton IBR (2016) women in business research indicates that although a significant increase in women senior management rates through worldwide have been observed, women senior executive rates are still lower than men (Grant Thornton IBR, 2016). Basing on these findings it was assumed that women employees may overcome glass ceiling effect by utilizing their transformational leadership skills, and an explorative qualitative pattern, grounded theory, methodology was followed in order to examine this process in depth. Hence, the answer of the following research questions was examined.
RQ1: Did women leaders perceive Glass Ceiling Effect while rising to top management level?
RQ2: Which barrier is most perceived by the women leaders?
RQ3: Which leadership features have a positive impact on overcoming the glass ceiling effect?
RQ4: Which transformational leadership behaviors are exhibited by women leaders
The aim of this research is to examine whether women employees can overcome these barriers by utilizing transformational leadership behaviors, and also examine the effective factors in this process. For this purpose, semi-structured interviews with 14 women senior executives were conducted.
Sample and Data Collection
Researches conducted on women leadership in Turkey indicate that women employees are centered in education and banking sector (Arıkan, 2003; Babaoglan & Litchka, 2010; Banoğlu, 2011; Bayrak & Mohan, 2001; Minibaş-Poussard, Erkmen, & Karsak, 2011). According to the Information and Communication Technology Sector Market Data report issued by Turkey IT Sector Association (TUBISAD) in 2013, the female employment rate in IT Sector was 27% - it is merely one quarter of the total employment rate in IT Sector (TUBISAD, 2014). Depending on the data it is likely to define IT sector as a male-dominated sector in Turkey. The sample of this research was selected from IT sector, in order to examine the success of women leaders in a man-dominated sector, and also for the sector’s rapidly-developing and turbulent nature.
In order to define the framework of the sample; the foundations and associations about IT Sector, the newspaper and journal articles and web sites about the firms and their women leaders were scanned. A purposive sampling methodology was followed while choosing the sample. Women leaders that were living in Istanbul and working in the prominent firms in 2014 that have a vast ecosystem were preferred. Consequently 35 women executives were identified. Requests for interviews were sent to the executives via post with a permission form was taken from researcher’s institution that clearly explain the main subject of the study, affiliations of researchers. 14 senior managers accepted the request and included in research process.
While arranging the interview questions it is paid attention not to add private questions about their ages, marital status, and number of children regarding their sensibility. It is considered appropriate to set free in case of they want to express. Most of the participants stated they were married, some of them were divorced and one participant stated she had never married. The ones who are mother stated they have one or two children. 7 participants had master’s degree-one of them doctorate- and great majority of them had an engineering based education at university: computer engineering: 3 participants, electrical and electronic engineering: 3 participants, business administration: 2 participants, industrial engineering: 1 participant, environmental engineering: 1 participant, mathematics engineering: 1 participant, petroleum engineering: 1 participant, Statistics: 1 participant, Electrical engineering: 1 participant. This may be interpreted as; their quantitative basis has a positive impact on analytic thinking ability in business life.
A semi-structured interview method was preferred for data-gathering process; due to that it is an efficient method in gathering information about participants’ experiences, attitudes, opinions, complaints, emotions, and beliefs. In qualitative researches, intended purpose of interview method is to consider the subject of the study in participants’ lens, and to understand how they gained that point of view. In semi-structured interview type, the interview form is prearranged, and open-ended questions are included (King, 2004; Myers & Newman, 2007). By following semi-structural interview method, 10 open-ended novel questions with probes arranged, in accordance with the research questions. After the questions were arranged, we consulted 4 academicians interested in the research field. Following mutual assessments, deficient points were reexamined and the interview questions were put into the final form. While arranging the interview questions it was paid attention not to add private questions about their ages, marital status, and number of children regarding their sensibility, and let them free to express willingly. The subject of the study, information about the researchers and the assurance regarding the identity of the participants would be kept confidential, especially noted in the text section of the interview form. This statement was submitted to each participant just before starting the interview.
The interviews took place where the participants arranged, from December 4, 2014 to January 29, 2015, and took averagely 1 hour 15 minutes. In order to prevent data loss, audio recorder was used with permission of participants. During the interviews, researcher did not adhere to predetermined questions strictly. A flexible and exploratory approach was adopted in order to provide a basis for improvised dialogues and new questions were added to the interview form, basing on improvised dialogues. After each interview, audio records are deciphered in to World document and send via email to the participants, in order to receive their approval.
Analyses and Results
A grounded theory methodology was followed in data analyzing process. Grounded theory was first conducted in early 1960s by two sociologists, Barney G. Glaser and Anselm Strauss, in an observational field research on hospital staff dealing with near-death patients. Theory introduced to literature by the two researchers in 1967 with the publication: Discovery of Grounded Theory (Strauss, 2003). Glaser and Strauss (2006) defined grounded theory as “the discovery of theory from data, systematically obtained and analyzed in social research” (p. 1). Grounded theory is a qualitative pattern that bases theoretically on pragmatism, and symbolic interactionism. Therefore, grounded theorists aim not only to reveal the conditions of phenomenon; but also to define how the observed actors react to these conditions actively, and the results of the actions (Corbin & Strauss, 1990).
In this research, coding processes that were developed by Corbin and Strauss (1990) for grounded theory researchers followed in analyzing the data: open coding, axial coding and selective coding processes, and Saldaña’s (2009) coding manual was utilized. The coding process was followed in this research is displayed on Figure
As shown on figure
The first step is open coding process, the process that data were scanned line by line in-depth, and the audio records were also re-listened simultaneously in order to recall the interview time, gestures, mimics and emotional expressions of participants. In this process at first, glass ceiling factors and transformational leadership components that were identified during the literature review process were searched in the data. Provisional coding, structural coding, descriptive coding methods were used during this process. Every new gathered data compared with the former data systematically. As the new codes emerged that were not in the researchers’ mind at the beginning of the research, passed through the initial coding phase. To identify the descriptive futures of participants attribute coding method was used. In vivo codes were also used in first cycle coding process. Examples for codes and explanations are presented on Table
In axial coding phase temporary codes were reviewed, similar ones were combined, other new codes also emerged and were gathered under categories. In selective coding process, themes and the relations among them were defined and missing parts of the theory were completed through returning the data.
By following Corbin and Strauss (1990)’s coding paradigm that has a reminder function in defining whether the phenomenon is represented within the frame of conditions, interactions, strategies tactics, and results (Strauss, 2003), a theoretical model with 6 components (themes) was constructed and represented on Figure
Glass ceiling effect
Glass ceiling perception
Strategies and features
In theoretical model, numbered squares represent the themes; the arrows represent direction of the relationship among the themes; dashed arrows represent the influence of the external factors on gaining a leading character and transformational leadership behaviors. As displayed on fig. 3; there are 2 ways women employees follow in their career journey. The first one results in senior management. These are the women who do not perceive glass ceiling barriers or perceived but motivated. They are also the ones that exhibit transformational leadership behaviors. The second way ends up with eliminating from senior management or totally from business life. Character features of women, strategies they follow, and the effect of external factors have a vital role in being a senior manager or eliminating.
Findings indicate that women confront glass ceiling barriers that were classified under three categories: individual factors, social factors, and organizational factors. Individual factors are on the forefront among other barriers, as it was represented with seven codes:
“… I deliberatively direct myself to behave masculine. Because when you behave like a woman, they consider it from a different point of view… In office I should behave like that…”
Besides individual barriers, women also confront society-based barriers that represented with three codes: Prejudices, stereotypes, and ego of men. The first two codes are commonly issued in related literature about women’s social roles were established in society.
Women employees perceive these individual, social, and organizational barriers in three ways. Some of them have never confront glass ceiling barriers. Some of them confront but have the ability of turning the advantage on their own by accepting them a motivating factor. Also, some women can perceive these barriers much more later they confronted for the reason that they did not stumble on them. A challenging character trait, working intensive, enjoying their business or not to pay attention these barriers are effective in overcoming these barriers. A participant expressed how she motivated herself as:
“… Now I am talking about the barriers… I talk about them for I accepted them, but at the time you don’t understand that you confronted a barrier and you say to yourself “These are common struggles of business life. They are not specific to me or my femininity. Everybody experiences them.” Once you accept the barriers, then you lose your resistance. Because you are unable to cope with them otherwise you change your gender…”
As there are women employees who do not perceive or ignore the barriers, there are also the ones who perceive them and feel under pressure. These women affected by glass ceiling barriers follow two ways. Some of them prefer to struggle, and were motivated by this effort. The others prefer the
“…While climbing up the pyramid’s top as a balloon attached weights, it comes to a level that they cannot carry these weights anymore. They cannot ascent to the top of the pyramid. The weights that pull down the balloon can be defined as familial, cultural or organizational. Sometimes a woman should work ‘one and a half times harder’ than a man to get the same position. So, they cannot rise with these ways or they give up climbing the pyramid…”
Successful women senior manager’s -who did not choose the
Self-awareness, improve herself on the way to target, show performance, being determined and patient are the significant features of the successful senior managers. A
Women make difference in business life with their
“… Women are successful in their carriers for they own their feminine features. Therefore, I say that they should hold to their female identity. We can see more woman managers today for they are aware of their identity…”
The factors that have a significant effect on women in the means of gaining leadership behaviors and overcoming glass ceiling barriers were represented under the theme
“… Who is the mother? A mother is the one who takes responsibility. Who is the mother? She is the one who teaches. One of the most important problem of a manager derives from the fear that the person who she/he taught something will be her/his rival one day. If you have such a fear, you shouldn’t be on that position. No mother fears that one day his child will be better than her. If you reflect this instinct on your business properly, nobody will be better than you anyway…”
Mothering instinct can appear also in behaviors of a woman who is not a mother, as a participant expressed:
“… I don’t have a child but if I had, I would prefer a girl. I would really like to have a girl and raise her... May be for psychological reasons… Why do I feel this way? Why do I want to raise a girl? Why do I want to bring a girl child who is better than me in society? …”
As mothering is a strong instinct that takes advantage for women, it should be used in workplace properly. Otherwise it is likely that she will be abused.
As women undertake various roles both in private life and business life in general, they are able to consider more than one responsibility, prioritize and put them into practice quickly. Versatility -defined as
Intuitions are also one of the strong emotions provide benefit for women in business life and for sure if used properly. A participant shared her experience about how her intuitions benefited her in a business bargain:
“… Not in the beginning of my career but now I have learnt to rely on my intuition that what it says come true at the end of the day. Whenever I followed my intuitions I always gained. Hence, I think that women have an advantage if they know how to use and dare to use it. For instance, it happened to me during a bargain with one of the most respected businessmen of Turkey. He said me that “You are a mother. You have intuitions. Now, I will say you something, look in to my eyes and listen to your intuitions. I did what he said, and replied as “Yes I rely on you” and bound the bargain. If there was a man in the place of me the bargain may not be bound. Hence, I love to use it…”
“…Integration is a familiar thing for women. For instance, while cooking we put a little of that and a little of that until it tastes better. Hence, in business life for instance in Smart Home Technology. This technology requires sensor tech, mobile tech and network etc. I assert that in such kind of techs women should be occupied due to that this kind of technologies require information gathered from various professions and also requires an understanding of the demands of the consumers. Today emotions are also involved in integrating different technologies as deep technologies are developed to the higher point. Namely, we advanced in sensor techs and also in communication techs but the application which will combine these areas have not been discovered yet. Yes… the women will combine them…”
The effective factors related to workplace were represented with 4 codes: Positive discrimination, the worker bee effect, IT Sector, and good-hearted queen bee. According to the research findings, especially international companies practices positive discrimination for women employees. It is an organizational policy, is practiced in order to increase the number of women employees and to provide gender diversification in organization.
Competence-based and flat hierarchic nature, also the higher education level
According to the coding analyze results, all participants exhibit transformational leadership behaviors. Bass’s (1985) transformational leadership dimensions were taken into account while arranging the category names: Idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration.
One of the prominent features of a transformational leader is being considered as a
Leader’s motivation methods used to direct her employees towards the target were explained under the category
“… I think my greatest side is, drawing the whole picture as, “You should address here and produce this outcome. The other one will take this output from there and that is the whole picture we will have formed at the end.” I also believe that it simplifies my staff’s work. Otherwise, in most cases the reason of the conflicts and inefficiency in firms is that the employees are not aware of who will use and how will be used the outcome she produced. Therefore, they cannot manage the time plan and the output, and cannot see the whole picture…”
If the members of the team can feel inside the responsibility of the whole success, failures, gains and losses, this means that the leader achieved to establish the most efficient motivation factor -the team spirit. It is about the human relations and a synergy among the team members, and the one who is responsible for establishing the team spirit, is the leader. A participant’s expressions are a good example for the team spirit:
“…We have a common song and we sing it altogether, then we hug each other and leave the office. Namely, there is an environment of love and trust among the team. If you cannot establish such an environment, the business will not work. You work with human not with machines. Therefore, mutual trust and love are very important factors. If there is no love among the team, serious problems will emerge. You should love each other in the team, otherwise you should leave…”
The essence of
“…Actually, regular conversations with one of my friends from another department that we have no relation in the way of our tasks have the same function. Yes... I am there for business but the questions in our conversation about “…What is its function in the whole picture? Where does that project place in the whole picture? Where does the firm place in the big picture? Where does that businesses place in your life?” Such questions emerged during our conversations are very important, as an irrelevant conversation about something may give you an idea about a problem that you cannot solve in your business...”
The essence of systems thinking is also related to mothering instinct. A participant’s expressions support this thesis:
“…If you behave as a mother … A mother is not the one who only pities somebody. No... For instance, it is a common view that a woman manager cannot fire an employee. I say obviously that in first time it was really difficult for me but it is something like… Imagine the organization as a ‘ship’, many people work here and there is such a person that causes problem in working system. If I fire that man for he causes a loss in organization, for not he is a bad person, then only then I act like a real mother. A mother can admonish her child sometimes. Namely there is nothing strange about that…”
A transformational leader encourages her employees to go beyond their limits, find solutions to the problems, and produce new and novel ideas. This feature of the participants was represented under the category with 3 codes: Empowerment, idea exchange, and high expectations.
As giving responsibilities, transformational leaders encourage her employees to take responsibility, make decisions, and find solutions.
“… People need a challenge… Namely, not so much but a little harder than they can, and allow them to achieve. For instance, you cannot practice this in high-risk tasks with limited time, but if the dead-line is feasible, you should allow them to achieve and go beyond their limits…”
The features as, encouraging the employees to improve themselves, observing their mood and dealing with their problems, adopting a warm communication style, were explained under the category
“… Though not all but some of my employees mention me about their girlfriends, problems in their life… Actually, I deal with them like a mother and I think it is an advantage of women…”
Transformational leaders adopt an accessible management style and closer relations with their employees instead of a hierarchic management style. As a participant stated:
“… I practice open-door policy and my employees are aware of my sincerity. Therefore, none of them refrain from saying me ‘I want to speak about something’…”
As a result of this research, a theoretical model was introduced that explains the relationship among the factors effective in gaining transformational leadership behaviors, and the role of these factors in overcoming the glass ceiling effect. The nature of grounded theory enabled us to conduct an in-depth research so, new concepts and relationships was emerged.
Results indicate that women confront glass ceiling barriers and it is determined that the most perceived barriers are individual factors with 7 codes. Glass ceiling barriers are commonly centered in social and structural/organizational factors in literature (Ahuja, 2002; Babaoglan & Litchka, 2010; Folta et al., 2012; Growe & Montgomery, 2000; Katz & Salaway, 2004; Ndaba, 2013; Pflanz, 2011; Samineni & Reddy, 2013; Truman & Baroudi, 1994; Virick & Greer, 2012). The findings that women construct their glass ceiling barriers, and researching the glass ceiling effect in-depth by following grounded theory methodology distinguish this research from the others. The most perceived glass ceiling effect was defined as
Besides the individual factors, women also confront with social and organizational barriers. Stereotypes and prejudices are frequently encountered social factors in literature (Eagly & Steffen, 1984; Eagly & Johnson, 1990). The code
The prominent structural/organizational glass ceiling barriers that take place in literature lack of mentor and role model (Ahuja, 2002; Ndaba, 2013; Pflanz, 2011) did not found in this research. Findings indicate that women take family members as a role model from a child. Especially strong and successful women figure in family –mother, sister, aunt etc. - have a great impact on overcoming the barriers and setting goals. This distinguishing finding is titled as genetic role model. Participants also stated that they did not need a mentor support in business life; this may be because their target-oriented and unordinary personal features. Though they did not receive a mentor help, working in international companies mentioned that they also serve as a mentor to women employees and advised beginners being open to support.
It was defined that the women senior managers that overcome the glass ceiling effect exhibit transformational leadership behaviors and instinctual, familial, environmental, and occupational factors have great influence on gaining these behaviors. Family culture, genetic role model, right husband, sports and social activities, and IT sector are the prominent effective factors. Especially family culture has an important role in ignoring and overcoming the barriers. Later on, the right husband is a supportive power of women in their career path. The most remarkable finding of this research is that the female instincts are in harmony with the transformational leadership behaviors. This leadership style exists in female nature, it is based in their instincts, and the women that are aware of this power and use it properly, with the support of familial, environmental and occupational factors, will be successful. This finding also supports Morley (1994)’s findings in terms of women’s quantitative under-representation is related to self-concept and being aware of their abilities. Mothering instinct -defined as an individual glass ceiling barrier- can turn into an advantage with regard to inspirational motivation and individualized consideration, and affect positively the organization performance. The prominent instinct-based features of women senior managers -chameleon, empathy, instincts, and multi-tasking- have a great role in being efficient transformational leaders. These findings support the views that women tend to behave transformational leadership behaviors (Abolade, 2014; Adams & Weiss, 2011; Adesua Lincoln, 2012; Babaoglan & Litchka, 2010; Bayrak & Mohan, 2001; Chandler, 2011; Eagly & Carli, 2003; Fatima et al., 2011; Folta et al., 2012; Growe & Montgomery, 2000; Hasan & Othman, 2012; Paulišić & Božac, 2013; Pflanz, 2011), and introduces a different point of view by emphasizing the effect of female instincts on transformational leadership behaviors.
It was also found that women senior managers have common features and strategies. This theme is important in terms of introducing current women senior manager profile. Female identity is one of the prominent codes of this research and emphasizes on once again the importance of female instincts.
Positive discrimination policies in international companies support our finding
As it is a soft and intellectual, competency-required nature, IT sector accepts women employees and managers easier. Especially women’s instinctual features, harmony and chameleon, address to IT sector –the sector that changes rapidly and requires integration.
It is a remarkable result that all 14 participants exhibit transformational leadership behaviors. The findings related to female instincts are in accordance with transformational leadership behaviors, presents a different point of view to research field. Transformational leadership exists in woman nature. As being aware of these futures, preventing female identity and using their instincts properly, women can activate their leadership features. Familial, environmental and occupational factors are also effective factors in being successful women leaders.
This research conducted in IT Sector with the participation of 14 senior managers. Future researches that will conducted in different sectors and samples will allow comparison of findings. The scales that will be formed with regard to the codes emerged in this research will be utilized in quantitative research, and also will contribute to this research’s reliability. The interviews that will be held with the subordinates will contribute to the consideration of leadership behaviors by employee’s point of view. The data of this research were gathered from current women senior managers. Researches that will be conducted on beginner women employees will allow to be informed of the current situation of the glass ceiling effect.
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20 December 2019
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Management, leadership, motivation, business, innovation, organizational theory, organizational behaviour
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Kılınç, İ., & Ünal*, A. (2019). Transformational Leadership Versus Glass Ceiling Effect: A Grounded Theory Research. In C. Zehir, & E. Erzengin (Eds.), Leadership, Technology, Innovation and Business Management, vol 75. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 337-356). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2019.12.03.28