They speak about glass ceilings in corporate America in order to describe the propensity of companies to hold back females in the work place after a certain amount of promotion. Well, as I was growing up, the term seemed to be mostly used in regard to females, though apparently it’s used for any detainment of qualified candidates. I believe that this has been getting better and better as I’ve grown older. I haven’t been in corporations to see it first hand, but my hopes are that all persons qualified can attain higher levels within an organization based on their ability and diligence.
The other day, I had a small discussion with a classmate about a similar situation. It began with CEO compensation and how it is so high. My classmate argued that most people don’t understand the complexity or difficulty of a position such as chief executive officer, why it’s so important and how much should be paid. These things are all true. There is a reason CEO’s are paid so well, it is the most important job and the prerequisite knowledge needed to actually run a company that has assets reaching the trillion dollar range is immense. Still, I argued that the class war that has been going on in the United States since inception is only perpetuated by the incredible disparity in salaries of the wealthy and poor. I do believe in fair compensation, but the gap is incredibly wide when someone gets an annual bonus that is larger than the commonwealth’s life time earnings. Additionally, I understand the value of what managers do, of what the creators and leaders of businesses must do. It truly is the most difficult part of work, creating the value chain and building a system that can systematically provide value. Often times, I’m not sure the working class fully realizes the associated risk and reward that are needed for this kind of undertaking.
The discussion quickly turned to describe who is actually capable of achieving such success. My classmate seems to think that anyone in the world can come to America and be successful. She argued that with hard work and diligence, anyone can get educated, attend a business school (or whatever’s clever) and live the American dream. There is no doubt in my mind that this is false.
We are privileged.
There are social norms today that allow you the privilege of accessing education systems, they allow you access to the funds needed in order to get educated and eventually earn a better living than 95% of the world. I read a book in undergrad that denoted very well what white privilege is. It was a bitter pill to swallow at the time, but being a white male in the United States entails certain things, said and unsaid, that give you an advantage. That is completely unfair and I’m well aware of it. It’s also not quantifiable; I can’t tell you the likelihood of one ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or belief system being more or less likely to succeed. I can’t tell you the reasons that this system perpetuates and is likely a detriment to our overall progression as a country. I can’t tell you that those privileged people revel in this situation either. I think the vast majority of educated people would rather have an unbiased and level playing ground where anyone can succeed.
I can tell you that there are many people born in the United States without food on their tables. I can tell you that there are kids born here (and many, many more around the world) that know very well they have no chance to become educated or live the lives the red, white and blue promise. The privileged in society are often quite blind to the advantages that they’ve been given. You simply can’t realize the difficulty of others. Many American children are brought up to believe they can achieve anything if they work hard and do the right things. A lot of children aren’t told that they can do anything. Can you imagine that? Of course not. You weren’t there. You can’t know, because you are otherwise privileged. None of us can.
There are diamond walls that keep a great many people outside. You certainly can see through if you look close enough, they sparkle and allure from great distance. Yet they are impenetrable, unbreakable material. You can’t get through the diamond walls today. Some day I hope the situation changes.