Author:Islam, Asadul


In the 21st century, participation of women at different workplaces has been increased dramatically specially in the developing countries. Some of the key industries in many regions are mainly dependent on female workers. For example, ready-made garments (RMG) industry of Bangladesh with the worth more than $34 billion is heavily dependent on the female workers (more than 85%), (Ovi, 2017; BGMEA, 2017). Similar scenario is examined in other key garments producing countries such as Vietnam (80%), India (60%), Philippines (85%), Cambodia (70%), etc. where majority of the workers in the industry are females (Wage Indicator, 2016; ILO, 2017; Varghese, 2017).

However, it is very surprising that there are very few females in the leadership positions such as General Manager, Line Managers, Quality Managers, Production Managers, Head of Merchandisers etc. in the RMG organisations of the countries, which are producing garments in larger scale for both local western buyers (Woodruff & Macchiavello, 2014; Preuss, 2016; Mia, 2016). According to John (2013), the existence of women on the board or in other leading position improves board performance and employees' engagement at work and their enthusiasm to excel at the workplace. This view is supported by the findings from research works of (Mathur-Helm, 2006; Nielsen & Huse, 2010) and in addition, they quoted that female representatives understands better than males in determining the demands of females at workplace, therefore, there should be a rational number of the females in leading positions. On the other hand, Fitch & Agrawal (2015), outlined a female manager can interact with her female subordinates more effectively than a male manager when there are more female workers than males. These views stress on the necessities of the females' presence in the leading positions in organisations.

Companies from western countries particularly in USA, UK, Canada, French and Germany have decided to improve work experience of women. Their strategy has focused on the breaking glass ceiling (Apkipnar-Spostilo, 2013). The glass ceiling (Unofficially acknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women) is identified as one of the most powerful images for evaluating the inequalities between the male and female employees in the organisations. The image has been used and highlighted widely in well- renowned media, academic publications and government reports (Catalyst, 1990; U.S Department of Labor, 1991; Scandura, 1992; State of Wickinson Task Force, 1993; Canberra Bulletin of Public Administration, 1994). From their report, it is acknowledged women in most organisations are able to get through the front door of the managerial hierarchies however they face invisible barriers, which create blockades to climb up into the higher positions in the organizations (Apkipnar-Spostilo, 2013).

Barriers identified for female employees to access in leadership positions in the organisations are mainly relating to the western countries and their industrial perspectives. Therefore, there is a lack of data regarding the barriers that are faced by the females in climbing up into leadership positions in the Bangladesh and its corporate organisations. Moreover, despite cultural disparity from the western countries, no study so far, in this regard has been conducted in Bangladesh specially relating to RMG industry, which is the employer of more than 4.2 million females in different positions. Thus, the main objective of this study is to identify barriers faced by female employees in the RMG organisations in Bangladesh. This particular industry is selected because it is the key earner for Bangladesh as well as the biggest employer of females (BGMEA, 2017; Uddin, 2015; ILO, 2017). The researchers of the study conducted 10 semi-structured interviews with 10 main questions concerning glass ceiling syndrome and career background with the 10 female employees from 5 biggest RMG organisations, which are exporting their ready-made garments to the western countries.


Women in Workforce and their Presence in Leadership Positions

According to Fagenson (1990), career advancement of women in the organisations can be influenced by several factors such as individual, organisational and social factors. However, the extent of problems or factors faced by women to progress in their career varies from job to job and country to country. Many companies in western countries are realising that women should be provided same rights and facilities to remain in their career for longer periods since the women participation at workplace is vital to the both diversity and success of the corporations (George, 2005; Maume, 2011; Mercer, 2015; Kwon & Milgrom, 2017). While women have increased their numbers in different junior or lower-ranking positions, they have made only a few inroads into leadership positions in organizations due to many reasons for example organisational culture with discrimination in case of wages and promotions (Devidson & Burke, 2002; Catalyst, 2009; Qian, 2016). According to Ahmed & Naseer (2015), women are not only discriminated in terms of the leading positions in organisations but also given lower wages that also discourage women to take higher roles, which are complicated with workloads. (Ponnuswamy & Monhar, 2014; Voncent-Lancrin, 2008) found that wage inequalities along with structural constraints i.e. organizational culture are responsible to keep potential female counterparts out of leading roles in the organizations. According to (Eyring & Stead, 1998; Sahoo & Lenka, 2016) organizational culture where the women are perceived to suitable for specific roles such as caregiver and homemaker is very devastating for females to take leading roles. However, it is common among many people especially among the organizational decision makers in different countries and societies where people do not encourage women to take leading role thinking that women should be doing child caring or other household activities (Bombuwela & Alwis, 2013; Akpinar- Sposito, 2013; Lathabhavan & Balasubramanian, 2017).

MSCI (2014), women globally only account for 12% seats in boards of the largest companies and among these companies 64% having at least one women director, 13% have at least three women. In this respect, women account for 13.4% of directors are in developed markets while 8.8% in emerging markets (MSCI, 2014). According to (OECD, 2014; World Bank, 2016), there have been very few percentages of the females in the leadership positions in the developing and poor countries where the number of skilled and educated females have increased remarkably in the last decade. (Mercer, 2015; OECD, 2016) most similarly reported that the female workers make up 41% of the overall representation in global organisations. This figure dramatically decreases at the senior level where women continue to be under-represented. According to (Economist, 2005; Emerald, 2005), none of the 25 highest earning CEOs was female during their research. Furthermore, according to the research performed by Bagues & Esteve-Volart (2007) presented an extreme lower percentage of females in the managerial and supervisory roles in both private and public organisations. Similar trend is examined from the International Business Report of Grant Thornton (2015) that the proportion of leading roles held by women has barely changed over the past decade in the corporate world. Grant Thornton, a pioneer research group of women leadership development, started research on gender diversity in business leadership position in 2004, has found the proportion of top jobs in business held by women has barely changed increasing from 19% in 2004 to 22% 2015 and never reaching more than 24% until 2015 (Grant Thornton, 2015). The report particularly presents that the trend is almost similar in the Argentina with 16%; Botswana, 16%; Brazil, 15% and Germany, 14%. In this respect, the Eastern European Countries are in leading...

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