Is the glass ceiling becoming thinner?


By Write(H)ers participant Flora Muglia, T'14

When I imagine the glass ceiling, I envision a tall building with many stories. It is difficult to climb but has a view that is worth it in the end, and on the final floor the ceiling is a sunroof that tauntingly allows in beautiful rays of sunlight. People attempt to find a latter or set of stairs in order to get on the roof and actually see the sky from high up, some go as far as to push on it or try and find a weak spot, but alas there is no entry. All you can do is stare up and wish for a breath of fresh air.

As a junior at Duke, it is difficult for me to envision a perfect trajectory for my career. I have a plethora of goals and I’m open to a variety opportunities. When I imagine my climb to the top, I expect there will be moments where I feel out of breath on the stairs or trip and have to catch myself. I want to make it to the top floor and believe that climbing onto the roof is possible. Until now, that might have been difficult, but things are changing.

Finally, it seems like the glass ceiling might be weakening. Last week, Business Week published an article which stated that the number of female Chief Financial Officers (CFO’s) in Standard & Poor 500 companies has risen from 40 to 54 in the past year alone. Most CFO’s have experience in accounting, and women make up the majority of Certified Public Accountants at 61.3%. This is notable because finance has long been considered a male dominated field, and those numbers are changing. Women are crossing boundaries previously barred to them, which is essential for creating a new status quo and diminishing the power structure surrounding gender.  

Being CFO isn’t a fast track to success, but it is a step in the right direction. The Business Week article stated that 15% of CEO’s held the position of CFO at some point in their careers. By working as CFO for a company, women prime themselves for the opportunity to hold other executive positions later in their careers, and have a higher chance of becoming CEO at some point. The only way to prove that women can be successful in the business world is by placing them in positions of power and allowing them to succeed and redefine the industry. CEO is not everyone’s ultimate goal, but if more women are offered the position, it will influence the way women are viewed and hired. It would have the potential to change company culture, and on a broader level, the prevalent business culture.

At this point, the question is: will the new glass just shift or will it thin? Instead of focusing on obtaining executive roles, will women stride to the top but fail at obtaining the highest honor of CEO? It seems likely. Hopefully, as women establish themselves in other executive roles such as CFO, CEO will become less elusive, and women will be candidates for all types of companies.

The glass ceiling is unacceptable. Whether it shifts or thins, society will not be truly progressive until it doesn’t exist at all. I want to be able to stand on top of that building, taking in the world around me, breathing in the fresh air and feeling the sunlight on my skin, knowing the success of overcoming the impossible.