Several years ago, a student named Amy walked into Dr. Victoria L. Robinson's office at the University of Northern Iowa to discuss her thesis on the glass ceiling for women in business. Amy was upbeat: The glass ceiling that existed during her mother's generation had been shattered. The only limits to Amy's success would be those she put on herself.
Many in her mother's generation have worked to instill such confidence. It's wonderful to see but Robinson fears a catch. As an associate professor of educational leadership and interim department head, she trains school principals and superintendents. Are the women among them ready for the barriers they'll meet? The glass ceiling may be broken but its jagged edges can still cut deeply.
If young women think the glass ceiling is history, how will they respond when they encounter its remnants? Will they be blindsided? Will their confidence take a nosedive because they believe any setbacks they face today are their fault?
"They are assuming that everything is fixed. It's going to shock them more than it shocked me," Robinson told WIHE, calling herself one of the gray-haired generation. Gender bias used to be more blatant. Today it's often subtle, unspoken and unconscious.
That makes it harder to recognize, especially if you missed the bad old days. The women with gray hair today worked hard to break down external barriers by changing the laws and campus policies. They also worked to break down internal barriers by promoting young women's skills and confidence.
What's missing is guidance for women of Amy's generation to see and respond appropriately to the external barriers that remain--the hidden, painful and jagged edges of the shattered glass ceiling.