The recent nominations of Ursula van de Leyen and Christine Lagarde to two of the most powerful positions in the EU have been widely hailed as proof that women are finally conquering the pinnacles of power, be it in politics or boardrooms.
However, as Hilary Cliinton used to repeat as a mantra on the campaign trail, the glass ceiling is still there, and it still does not show enough cracks. According to a study by McKinsey, women are 15% less likely to be promoted, across all organizational levels. While this might not seem a dramatic difference, the researches points out that at this rate it will take more than a century to achieve parity in the most senior positions.
And as if that were not bad enough, new research found that women are judged more negatively by their looks than their male counterparts. In a study reported by Time, it was found that attractive women face serious hurdles when applying for a job. Put differently, the better you look as a woman, the less likely you can compete against a male candidate.
As the study by Time points out, this might have to do not just with unconscious bias, but also with societal attitudes and expectations.
Proving discrimination as a woman is seldom an easy feat. Within the European Union, a Directive from 2000 forbids any direct discrimination on the basis of gender. Luckily for those affected by discrimination, Article 10 clarifies that the burden of proof falls on the defendant.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has helped to advance protection against gender discrimination even further: it stated in 2015 that although it is essentially up to the claimant to establish the facts, the defendant cannot hide behind a refusal to disclose important information. If the defendant does so, the judge can validly interpret that as an admission of the presumed discrimination.
In the meantime, more cracks in the glass ceiling are appearing. Slowly, women are climbing up. But while men often find this to be a paved path with stairs, women more often than not face a steep climb through the wilderness.