Breaking the Internal Glass Ceiling

At a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) conference on women in 2005, the hotly debated topic was whether there was a glass ceiling for women in the Indian social and business environment. In the midst of a daylong session of system and male bashing, the real revelation came when the women who had made it despite the odds spoke about breaking through their own internal glass ceiling. The strongest point made during the day was that even before the woman in India faces the external glass ceiling, she is hindered by her own diffidence. But once she manages to break through her own lack of confidence, the world and the entire system come around to work in her favor.

The urban Indian woman has, to a large extent, overcome the anxieties of social acceptance and gender insecurities. She is no longer condemned to prove her abilities solely in the realm of nurturance and selflessness. The middle-class woman today wants to be known for more than her ability to endure. She has in fact gone beyond this and reclaimed parts of her individual self. As one of them said in our consumer interaction, “I like to work, to feel that I am also worthy even if it is in a small way . . . it is my way.” Stories of Indian women proving themselves on the world stage, against all odds, are commonplace today. On the Forbes 2009 list of the hundred most powerful women, India had four entries: ...

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