Women and the sticky floor

by Jul 12, 2022

Overcoming the sticky floor

The sticky floor situation has been impacted even further by the pandemic. The shortage of talent is forcing a more open minded approach.

Glass ceiling vs sticky floor

The “glass ceiling” was first used to describe a situation where gender pay gaps are wider at the top of the career ladder. It covers the inequality between men and women in the workplace, and describes the barrier to further advancement once women have attained a certain level.

In contrast, the “sticky floor” was coined in 1992 by Catherine Berheide where she suggests that many women are segregated, stuck in lower-level jobs, and are unable to get out of them.

Fast forward to May 2021, when research from the OECD shares that unconscious bias around gender stereotypes and expectations is at the root of this situation and accounts for 40% of the gender pay gap.


Pink silos

This pattern keeps women in so-called “pink functions” associated with roles found in the hospitality, education, care, and health sector. In business, this thinking tends to channel women into junior admin roles, HR, marketing, and communications, that is non-profit and loss functions. Women tend to have low mobility with little opportunity to transition into other roles outside these so-called “pink” functions. Quite often they take these jobs to accommodate child-care and other family support work known as the “second shift.”

Leena Nair former CHRO of Unilever was recently appointed CEO of Chanel. Will this be a trend? Only time will tell.

Post pandemic

The domination of women in pink collar silos meant that the sticky floor situation became exaggerated during the pandemic. Then women’s labour activity because of the nature of the work fell in most countries fell at a higher rate than for men

But surprisingly the combination of COVID19 and the huge shortage of skilled talent is forcing organisations to be more open-minded and creative in how they assess talent. These women have also seized opportunities to upskill and reskill during the pandemic. There was a silver lining for women in the pandemic.


How to tackle the sticky floor

For job seekers, never has it been more important to understand their transferable skills and be willing to market them to move out of the roles that limit and trap them. But even more significant, is that organisations need to re-think their recruitment programmes to make them more diverse and inclusive.

Reliance on low-hanging fruit and “Mini-Me” cloning programmes means they are running out of options resulting in a massive talent shortage. The need to fish where there are fish is greater than ever.

3Plus offers a portfolio of gender balance solutions which includes working with you to establish an understanding of the unwritten corporate culture.

If you feel passionate about gender balance and topical issues impacting women in the workplace 3Plus would be delighted to publish your work. Don't wait - send it in

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