The Aftermath of Jumping Headfirst Into Glass Ceilings

Women all around the world are shattering glass ceilings. We’re moving into fields men previously dominated and doing their jobs as well or better. We present a real threat to patriarchy and its ability to stand on anything but ideology. Nevertheless, the glass ceiling still smacks us in the head all the time, especially in America.

It smacks us when we get called know-it-alls, but our male colleagues are intelligent with a good grasp of technical know-how. And just when we plan to get up, it smacks us again when we’re “bossy,” but our male colleagues are just natural leaders and driven go-getters.

The glass ceiling smacks especially hard for women who work in STEM and other male-dominated fields. There is always extra pressure on us to be stupid enough not to be a threat but also to be smart enough to be respected. It’s a thin and difficult line to tread, but good luck finding corporate success without walking it.

My 3 Types of Glass Ceilings

All women in America face a gender-bias glass ceiling. But, as a Black female immigrant, I have more than just my sex or gender working against me.

The Female Glass Ceiling

When social scientists first published studies about the gender pay gap and the lack of women in leadership positions, The Patriarchy hit us with excuses. Well, obviously, it’s because women tend to opt for lower-paying jobs. Instead of working as doctors and accountants, we prefer to be secretaries and teachers. That might have been true in my grandmother’s time. It is not true today.

According to a study conducted by Pew Research Center, Asians make the most money in STEM. On average, they outearn even White men by a landslide. Yet, Asian women see a big disparity in their pay as well.

  • Asian women in STEM outearn White men, but they make $15,000 less per year than their male colleagues of the same race or ethnicity.
  • White women in STEM earn roughly $25,000 less than White men each year.
  • Black women in STEM earn about $14,000 less than Black male colleagues and approximately $32,000 less than White men.
  • Hispanic women in STEM earn around $18,000 less than Hispanic male colleagues and roughly $33,000 less than White men.

I also found several studies showing that the gender pay gap was the worst in accounting, law, and medicine.

The Minority Glass Ceiling

You may have noticed a trend in the STEM statistics above. Asians in STEM aside, White men significantly outearn every other demographic in America. While the STEM statistics primarily showed data on racial differences, other factors make people minorities. For example, Muslims, the LGBTQIA community, and people with disabilities are minorities as well.

Since moving to America, I have primarily worked in positions where the pay rate was the same for all contractors. Nevertheless, I made an interesting observation less than a month after moving to this country at 26 years old:

  • My White friends were routinely appalled that any employer would have the audacity to offer them $15 per hour. The wealthier ones were balking at $25.
  • My Black friends would call or text me excitedly to share that they were finally making $15 per hour.

This was 2015. What was appalling to me was that our White friends would just smile and congratulate them. The very same people who were crying over being offered the same wages the day before. They seemed to accept that they deserved higher wages, but their Black friends apparently did not.

That blew my mind.

Even worse, they all had similar qualifications: guys with no college degrees and no steady careers in their mid-20s. That observation told me everything I needed to know about making money in the United States as a young, Black person.

The Immigrant Glass Ceiling

Over the past decade, several studies have shown that the Black immigrant population has similar qualifications and educational levels to US-born Americans. Despite this, on average Black immigrants make less than the national population, earn less than all other immigrant groups, and are the least likely of all immigrants to own a home.

There is, however, one demographic we outperform, and that’s the existing Black population in America, i.e., African Americans. We earn 30% more than they do, have lower poverty rates, have higher rates of home ownership, maintain more stable households, and are more likely to have college degrees.

So, what do I make of this? Black immigrants to the U.S. predominantly come from Black-majority countries. In fact, most Black immigrants in the U.S. are from Jamaica and Haiti. We have had the privilege of growing up without internalizing the institutionalized and systematic racism in America. African American economic performance, in my opinion, is proof of systematic racism here and what it means to be raised in it and by it.

I see it in the fact that there is a stark contrast between my experiences and social position in Jamaica vs. here. In Jamaica, I was treated as an upper-middle-class citizen and enjoyed all the privileges that came with it. I recognized an immediate demotion in America. No accomplishment I achieved since arriving has changed that.

My Social Glass Barriers

Most Americans discuss the glass ceiling in relation to work and politics, but I have other glass ceilings in my social life. Maybe it’s better to discuss these things as glass barriers rather than ceilings, but the effects are the same. In Jamaica, not only do women not need to internalize the same kind of systematic racism, but we also routinely tell the patriarchy to kiss our ass.

Matriarchy in Jamaica and the West Indies

Social scientists have conducted several studies on an interesting phenomenon in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean. Most African tribes brought to our islands during slavery were patriarchal. Yet, most Caribbean families today are matriarchal. Jamaica and St. Lucia are two of only three countries in the world where you are more likely to have a female boss than a male one. In Jamaica, roughly 60% of our leadership positions are held by women.

This is not to say Jamaican and St. Lucian women do not face barriers to success. I was, for instance, discouraged from studying STEM and men do show open defiance to female leadership. When our first female Prime Minister ran for office, some Jamaican men ridiculed her and claimed they did not want to have a “panty government”.

Violence against women is also always highest in developing countries where men are or feel marginalized by women’s successes. Note that Colombia is the third country where your boss is more likely to be female. While this South American country is well-known for its coffee and rich culture, it has also become notorious for femicide.

Backlash Against Matriarchal Values in America

Naturally, as a Jamaican who immigrated to America as an adult, I have zero reverence or respect for White patriarchy. American men ― White or otherwise ― have no idea what to do with me. I am out of line and have no fear for the social retributions they want to heap at my feet. Why am I out traveling by myself in remote areas and barrelling over sand dunes in my sexy FJ? Why do I not want children? Why is having a man not a priority in my life? Women like me should be burned at the stake, I guess.

Consequently, I am virtually undatable in the United States. Jamaican and European men always praised my decisiveness, accomplishments, and unwillingness to compromise my values. American men find these same things intimidating.

Millennial men have told me on several occasions that my achievements emasculate them. When I tell my Boomer and Gen X friends they laugh and say that doesn’t surprise them at all.

But, what am I supposed to do about that?

Earn less?

Achieve less?

Decline to celebrate my small wins?

I’d rather be undatable. Relationships are not the upgrade they once were for women and our social lives. In fact, there are more single men than single women in America and I don’t think any of us who date them is surprised.

Jumping Headfirst Into Glass Ceilings

Over the past decade, White men have expressed continued fear of losing their prized position as the sweethearts of America. Privilege led to a collective habit of complacency that has failed to hold up in a society that must inevitably preserve capitalism by rewarding merit to some degree.

The pioneering values that built America long disappeared. Many Americans never leave their hometowns, much less their states or country. Consequently, while women, minorities, and immigrants continue to bang our heads against the glass ceilings and forge new paths, we are also increasingly dodging bullets. Whether at the ballot or in a Buffalo supermarket, the further we advance, the more we also need to watch out for our safety.

I first encountered this line of thinking from a Jewish friend after I mentioned the collective wealth of the Jewish community. After a moment of visible discomfort, he explained that Jewish people hated that stereotype ― true or untrue. Why? Because once the sentiment takes root and spreads, it’s almost always followed by concerted efforts to flush them out and reclaim that wealth for everyone else.

At the time, I told him I would like to take some time to process that before responding. Why? Because fearing success instead of poverty or police brutality seemed like a privileged position.

Now, that I’ve had time to process it and draw a parallel, I can see how success creates a double-edged sword for women, immigrants, and minorities in America. Nevertheless, we’ll keep banging our heads against the glass ceilings, even when it hurts — and continue to dodge bullets in the process.

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16 thoughts on “The Aftermath of Jumping Headfirst Into Glass Ceilings

  1. Well written post Alexis, and I love how you had all your stats and facts to prove every point you made. This is one of the reasons why migrating to ‘Murica has never been a consideration for me.. that being said, I know thousands of Jamaicans have made an easier life there. However, some of the things you described here are things I’ve noted from the news, my own research and anecdotal evidence I’ve heard from relatives in the States. It sounds like too much work to invest millions and months of studying into writing my USMLE, only to migrate and inherit these problems. I enjoy my “upper middle class” status in Jamaica. I’ll find another country to live one day (Canada most likely), or maybe, just maybe I can eventually find that sweet spot where I earn enough to make living in Jamaica worthwhile. Our meagre salaries and what that means in terms of inability to buy a home, nice car, travel, etc. is the my main push factor.

    As for your “dateableness”, you’re not undateable. The ‘Murican dating pool has wee-wee in it!

    1. Hilariously, America would kill to have you over here. There is a serious shortness of doctors and other health care professionals. But, like you said, if they aren’t addressing their social problems, the only upgrade is the pay and that’s not enough for us millennials.

      Not surprisingly, I’m always looking for reasons to escape America. Currently in Mexico and will be here for 7 months. I had planned on going up to Canada next summer, but I’m having second thoughts after some racist responses to my questions from Canadians and a suspicious declined stay request from a Canadian host. We shall see.

      I died laughing at you saying there’s wee wee in the dating pool. 😂🤣 You’re not lying. Sometimes I just sit there looking at millennial men and thinking, “My god, this is what’s available for me” lol.

  2. Yes to all of this. Through my work, I have especially seen the African-American community disenfranchised, which is a result (and cause) of institutionalized racism. It’s sad to see especially the younger generation give up early on and accept the fact that they can’t move up, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. While things have improved in the past 40-50 years, there still is a long way to ameliorate the situation, to continue to break the glass ceiling in terms of race, gender, citizenship status, and so forth.

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective on this. It’s unbelievable how little progress America has made in addressing inequality and how even the little progress made is constantly under attack by the people who are afraid they won’t be the majority and hold most of the power forever. You are also right about some people giving up early and falling prey to the self fulfilling prophecy. I spoke to one today and I hope I’ve encouraged him to work toward greater things!

  3. interesting facts. i worked in a female dominated profession and all my “bosses” were female. there were, as far as i knew, no pay differences between males and females. there was a pay difference in education, but because there was a clinical ladder, once you reached the top, the pay was the same and only those with the higher degree reached the top a bit sooner. but based on what i know, i would say what you have written is spot on. as for you being undateable? im sure there is someone willing to take the chance. lol 😉 😉

    1. The fields I’ve worked in here, I don’t think there are big gender and racial pay differences but I know that’s not the case for most industries.

      As for being undatable, that’s alright. A man who sees me as “a chance” is already barking up the wrong tree lol. There are men who exclusively date women like me. I’ll wait for a desirable one to come along. 😂

  4. I really enjoyed this post Alexis, thank you. I am convinced that the vast majority of the White America Male attitude (and, indeed, all male bombastic, misogynistic, overbearing attitudes) stems from insecurity. I have always espoused the idea that were we to have the majority of world leader and managerial posts held by women then it would not be too long before the majority of world problems would be well on the way to being sorted. One problem with that is that so many women, after gaining a position of power, start behaving like men to compete!

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Peter! It’s a shame that some women start acting like the men to compete. I hope we can create a world where all people compete fairly based on merit and core values instead of a desire for power for the sake of having it.

      1. Indeed yes, spot on – “hope we can create a world where all people compete fairly based on merit and core values instead of a desire for power for the sake of having it”.

      2. Can’t argue with you there. Very few people can resist corruption when in power, and not forever.

    1. Thank you, but that’s not me jumping over my car. I drive an FJ Cruiser. That’s a random Black woman jumping over her Jeep, a stock photo.

      1. My mistake, in the hurry I saw it as you and your car – seen on your Youtube. But that don’t change the excellent words written. 🙂

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