The Glass Ceiling in the Korean Public Service

Lee, Joo-Hee, Young-Hee Han, Hyun-Jung Sung, and Jung In. 2007. Journal of Korean Women’s Studies 23(3): 79-115.

This study investigates barriers that delay and/or hinder equitable promotion of women public servants in Korean central and local governments, based on in-depth interviews with 62 public servants, both male and female. The glass ceiling in the public service sector appears in the very early stages of a career, especially in local governments where the promotion rate for men and women at lower grades was extremely unequal. The following three mechanisms of generating such glass ceilings are identified in this study. First, there were micro gender division of labor that constantly divide “men’s work” and “women’s work.” Women public servants were frequently assigned to the jobs that do not lead to promotion. The second gendering mechanism was particular pattern of social relations that excludes women from powerful male networks, and thus from promotional possibilities. The importance of informal power groups were even more influential at higher grades. Finally, relations of power in the public service are exercised along gender lines, thereby devaluing the accomplishment of women public servants. Even if these women public servants succeed in breaking the glass ceiling, they do not possess the same amount of influence and power compared to male public servants. As a result of the gendered nature of organizational hierarchy, the effectiveness of equal opportunity policies, such as affirmative action, has been severely damaged, and did not produce expected outcomes.


An Analysis of the Managerial Level’s Gender Gap and “Glass Ceiling” of the Corporation

Cho, Heawon & Inhee Hahm. 2016. Korea Social Policy Review 23(2): 49-81.

This study agrees with the idea that a situation centered perspective provides a useful contribution in understanding women’s attitude on organizations. Women’s occupational experiences are less related to their “femaleness” than to the structural constraints inherent in the occupational positions women fill. So characteristics of the organizational situation including gender composition and hierarchical status may “shape and define” women’s experience on the job. The present study examined the managerial level’s gender gap and “glass ceiling” of the corporation.

According to Kanter, if the ratio of women to men in organizations begins to shift, as affirmative action and new hiring and promotion policies promised, forms of relationships and corporate culture should also change. However, the mere presence of women on workplace may not, in itself, result in women-friendly work condition.

This study analyzes “Korean Women Manger Panel survey(2010 3rd. wave)” to examine how much gender gap of the managerial level persists and when the glass ceiling effect emerges. Using t-test and ANOVA, various aspects of the gender gap within managerial level were verified. The most significant finding is that the glass ceiling effect starts from very low level of management.

Policy implications from the statistical analysis of the Panel survey are: 1) We need to increase the absolute number of the women managers for securing middle level women leadership pipe line. 2) We need to confront the fact that the glass ceiling starts from the very low managerial level, and to explore more realistic way to break up the vicious circle for the tokenism. and 3) We need to look beyond numbers in approaching women’s matter at work. At the cultural and institutional level, work-family programs and policies, women’s ratings of their competence, and family-friendly organization’s climate should be considered.

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