Sticky Floors and Glass Ceilings – What’s Holding You Back?

This is 2023, and yet, issues such as gender inequality in the workplace (in fact, everywhere), are very real for women from all walks of life. Indeed. Women have come a long way from the days of tight corsets, but some invisible bindings still remain that stop women from reaching their full potential, when it comes to their careers.

#womenleadership #genderequality #career #talent #recruitment #businessinsights #HRnews

Last month, on May 15, 2023, a thoroughly enlightening and inspiring speed-mentoring event for working women was held at Menara CIMB, Kuala Lumpur, addressing the issue of gender disparity in the workplace. Organised by the renowned 30% Club, Malaysia and titled ‘Sticky Floors & Glass Ceilings – What’s Holding You Back?’ the event was attended by the who’s who of the business world as mentors, including Christina Foo (Board member of UEM Sunrise, Ancom Nylex and Malaysian Technology and Development Corporation), Farhan Ahmad (Group CEO, Payments Network Malaysia), Ho Yuet Mee (Board Member, CIMB Group Holdings), Rejina Rahim (Founder, Wahine Capital), Rema Devi Nair (Board Member, SIRIM), Saw Chooi Lee (Board Member, Dutch Lady Milk Industries) and Yuki Aizawa (Co-founder, Rinne).

The event saw 84 women from 25 companies (who are corporate members of 30% Club Malaysia) attending as mentees, all with the same aspiration - to be free of the ‘sticky floor’ and shatter the ‘glass ceiling’ that’s holding them back. The signature event by 30% Club Malaysia was graciously hosted by Mr Ahmad Shahriman Mohd Shariff - the CEO of CIMB Islamic Bank Berhad, and it was uniquely designed and wonderfully conducted by Mr Raj Kumar Paramanathan, the Steering Committee Member of 30% Club Malaysia and Managing Partner of CnetG Asia.

The concept of the event was unique whereby individual mentors sat down with a group of mentees for an allotted slot of time and answered questions on how to overcome the gender-based challenges faced by women at the workplace even now and the ways to cross the society-imposed boundaries that are holding women back from flying high. There was ample time for networking during lunch after the event to allow the women to further their discussions with the mentors and the other attendees. The attendees wrote down the sticky floors and the glass ceilings as pointers and also offered possible solutions.
Some thought-provoking pointers came forth from the event, relating to the sticky floors and the glass ceilings that women feel are still holding them back from achieving their best and how they are solving the problems.

What are ‘sticky floors’ and ‘glass ceilings’ and how to overcome these challenges?

The term ‘sticky floor’ is relatively newer than the term ‘glass ceiling’ and was first used by Catherine Berheide in 1992. It describes the gender gap in wage distribution for workers at the bottom of an organisation structure. The term 'glass ceiling', on the other hand, first appeared in the business world way back in 1984. The glass ceiling can be explained as the barrier that stops women from advancing further in their careers once they have attained a certain level or position (read middle management).

So, what are the sticky floors and glass ceilings still holding back modern women from progressing in their careers? Let us find out!

1. Playing the dual role of primary caregiver in the family and working full-time

Possibly very few women would say that balancing family and career isn't one of the biggest challenges holding them back from achieving their full potential at the workplace. We have come a long way in identifying the stereotype that is 'gender roles' and erasing the boundaries that divide the genders when it comes to work. But the truth remains that we have a longer way to go since most women are still the primary caregiver in a family, regardless of what position they hold at the workplace or how much pressure they handle professionally. The dual burden of excelling professionally while keeping the family wheel running smoothly often takes a toll with usually the career taking a backseat when it gets too overwhelming.

Possible solution – Seeking help from family members and delegating work at home as well as at the office is a possible solution. Instead of taking it all on oneself, sharing the family workload among the members can bring some relief to the pressure.

2. Taking a career break when the family needs

And it is not always dictated by the society. Although, in most cases, society expects women to give up their careers when such a situation arises where one of the couples needs to stay home for a while, women sometimes voluntarily sacrifice their careers to support their spouses', even if they are more successful and thriving in their career.

Possible solution – Giving a thorough thought about how the career break will impact the future of the family and being pragmatic about who should continue working is a possible solution. Having said that, a lot depends on the communication and understanding between the couple as well as other family members.

3. The fear of judgement

How many times have we heard people say that a woman received a promotion not because of her skill, knowledge, expertise, or experience, but because of other things? If we have heard it once, we have heard it a million times. And, the fear of this judgement from peers, colleagues, and society as a whole stops many women from pursuing their career goals aggressively like men.

Also, while aggressiveness, outspokenness, and dominance are often considered as leadership traits in men, the same characteristics are called 'bitchy' and 'bossy' when it comes to women. The fear of being seen and termed as such a person and being an outcast by peers and colleagues stop women from showing the headship qualities that are required for higher management positions, thus preventing them from getting that much-deserved promotion.  

Solution – It is easier said than done, but the only way to beat this problem is to be deaf to such unwanted and destructive criticisms. The onus also lies on the male leaders and management of an organisation to call out such comments or behaviours.

4. The feeling of not being good enough for a role

A survey conducted in the UK showed that only 43% of women ask for a raise at the workplace against 64% of men. There are many theories and several hypotheses regarding why women hesitate to market themselves in the workplace as men do, and one of the most common and widely accepted assumptions is that many women feel they do not deserve that raise or the promotion. According to an article published in Forbes, women apply for promotions only when they meet the job requirements 100%, against men who go ahead even if they fulfil only 60% of the job criteria.

Solution – To be more assertive and a go-getter when it comes to asking for raises and promotions. Taking necessary preparations such as pursuing training and enhancing skillsets according to the job description of the desired role are also possible solutions.

Sticky floors and glass ceilings – shake them and break them!

The battle has long gone on and the end is still nowhere in sight. But there is no time to stop and rest as the future is keeping a close watch on how women manage the sticky floors and glass ceilings, combat the challenges, progress in their careers, and achieve what they desire! Here's hoping gender equality at the workplace, and everywhere else becomes a reality soon.
More to read:

Stay updated and subscribe to our newsletter



Unit 307 - Block A, Phileo Damansara 1,
9 Jalan 16/11 off Jalan Damansara,
Petaling Jaya, Selangor Dahrul Ehsan


10th Floor, RSU Tower
571 Sukhumvit Road
Klong Ton Nua, Wattana,
Bangkok, 10110


DBS Bank Tower 12th Fl. - CIPUTRA WORLD
1 Jl. Prof Dr. Satrio Kav. 3-5, Jakarta 12940

IRC Global Executive Search Parnters
IRC Global Executive Search Parnters
© 2024 CnetG Asia

Join Us  |  Legal  |  Privacy

Generic Popup