Glass Ceiling in Thailand’s Ministry of Defense: How Thai female soldiers overcome gender barriers in male dominant workplace (Chapter 2: Literature Review)

เนื้อหางานวิจัยนี้ สงวนลิขสิทธิ์โดยผู้วิจัย Suthathip Sararith

Chapter 2: Literature Review

In this chapter, the literatures, which had been based on composing the questions for data collection and analysing the findings would be stated. The literatures were consisted of ‘Discrimination theory’, which could split to the new term of gender discrimination in workplace, ‘Glass Ceiling’ (Hymowitz and Schellhardt, 1986). In this research, it would investigate on Glass Ceiling term, specifically in Thailand’s Ministry of Defence, where the Thai cultures and belief could highly influence the female soldiers’ perceptions and understandings towards Glass Ceiling. This could be compare to other military organizations in international context. Also, this research was intended to find out how female soldiers could overcome gender barriers and how female soldiers perform their leadership styles. Therefore, Kurt Lewin’s leadership styles theory (1939) would be used to analyse the findings.

2.1     Backgrounds

Over decades, there were many researchers had done researches to find out the matters and effects of discriminations in various areas. The early researcher of this theory was Kenneth Arrow (1971). He stated that personal characteristics such as race, ethnic background, and sex had constantly adduced in this context. Therefore, discrimination had many branches in studies and findings.

‘Discrimination’ was the term of prejudicial treatment of an individual to others, who have different races, genders and ethics. According to UK Institute of Race Relation (2011), discrimination was an action of treating ‘one particular group of people less favourably than others because of their race, colour, nationality, or ethnic or national origin. The law in Britain recognised two kinds of discrimination: direct and indirect. Direct discrimination occurred when a ‘protected characteristic’ such as race, colour, nationality, or ethnic or national origin is used as an explicit reason for discriminating. Indirect discrimination occurs when there are provisions, criteria or practices operating, which had the effect of discriminating against certain groups of people, by putting them at a disadvantage compared with others, and which cannot be justified as proportionate’ (IRR, 2011). Therefore, discrimination could occur in 2 main models, racial and sexual discriminations (Madden, 1977).

2.1.1 Sexual Discrimination In Workforce

According to Madden’s ‘A Spatial Theory of Sex Discrimination’ (1977), she studied about wages differences of male and female workers due to women commuted less. According to Madden’s research (1977, pp372), women tended to commit to ‘household utility function subject to time and budget constraints’ more than men. Therefore, the working hours and location of employment were more important to women. Therefore, it was profitable to employ men with higher wages than to equally productive women. According to Crosby, Biernat and Williams (2004), women had been restricted to ‘maternal’ quality or ‘maternal wall’. The maternal wall described the additional barrier that made mothers immensely vulnerable to workplace bias and discrimination. The labor at home, such as house chores, childcare responsibilities and other related matters, was the obstacle for women not to be advanced in workplace. Later, the law took greater consideration for women and their rights to live equally with men. In United States of America, during the 1960s several federal laws improving the economic status of women were passed.

In Thailand, according to the Thailand’s 16th constitution in 1997, ‘section 30. All persons are equal before the law and shall enjoy equal protection under the law. Men and women shall enjoy equal rights. Unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of the difference in origin, race, language, sex, age, physical or health condition, personal status, economic or social standing, religious belief, education or constitutionally political view, shall not be permitted’ (Administrative Court, 2011) and ‘section 80. The state shall protect and develop children and the youth, promote the equality between women and men, and create, reinforce and develop family integrity and the strength of communities.’ (Administrative Court, 2011), showed that Thailand had focused on equality between men and women. Later in the 17th Thai constitution in 2007, the government had added the equal right for women in politics (Thailand’s Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, 2008). Therefore, the women discrimination was slightly decreasing due to the law. Nevertheless, gender inequality manifested violence against women, discrimination and human trafficking for prostitution. Women made up only over 40 per cent of the Thai labour force and employers were required to provide them the same wages and benefits as men. Despite the fact that more than half of the country’s university graduates were female, yet women were still concentrated in low-paying jobs. Stereotypical attitudes relegated women to distinct jobs and duties, such as nursing, teaching, or housework, and limit perceptions of their physical and psychological abilities. Police and military academies, for example, did not accept female students.’(Social Instititions & Gender Index, 2011)

Although, many countries had encouraged the roles of women in workforce as the equal essential productive component as men, women, in some working areas, could not reach to the same level or higher than men even though they had the same qualities with men. Therefore, the term of ‘Glass Ceiling’ had been manufactured.


2.2          ‘Glass Ceiling’

According to the gender discrimination, women had been blocked from various organizations. It seemed like women could expose their potentials and abilities when men could not perform the specific duties; for example, girls could go to school when boys were working during summer (WIC, 1994) or women could serve the military when the number of men had declined. Women could be seen as men’s substitutes. Although women could perform well as equal as men, they had to encounter with the ‘Glass Ceiling’.

2.2.1 Glass Ceiling Definition

‘Glass Ceiling’ was ‘the metaphorical term to define gender discrimination, which focused on female role in society and workplace. Its definition was ‘an invisible barrier that determines the level to which a woman or other member of a demographic minority can rise in an organization’ (Napikoski, 2011, pp1). ‘The word ‘ceiling’ implied that women encounter an upper limit on how high they could climb on the original ladder, whereas ‘glass’ referred to the relative subtlety and transparency of this barrier, which was not necessarily apparent to the observer (Barreto, Ryan and Schmit, 2009).

The term ‘Glass Ceiling’ had been established in the Wall Street Journal on the status of corporate women (Hymowitz and Schellhardt, 1986). Nowadays, ‘glass ceiling’ had been widely used in many literatures and become in focus to the government organization. In 1991, the ‘Federal Glass Ceiling Commission’ was established to gather information and study opportunities for and barriers to advancement for women and minorities. ‘The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, a 21-member bipartisan body appointed by President Bush and Congressional leaders and chaired by the Secretary of Labor, was created by the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Its mandate was to identify the glass ceiling barriers that have blocked the advancement of minorities and women as well as the successful practices and policies that have led to the advancement of minority men and all women into decision-making positions in the private sector.’ (United States Department of Labor, 2011)

This research was intended to focus on Glass Ceiling in Ministry of Defence which was known to be male dominant workplace. Women were secondly introduced to the military as the substitute component. Therefore, the orginisational culture of the military might oppress women soldiers not to break the glass ceiling higher than women in different workplaces.

2.3          Glass Ceiling in the Military

Women participated in the military activities, firstly, as ‘supporting’ roles like aiding, nursing and other medical helps; for women were full of maternal qualities. Nevertheless, women had the opportunities to replace men when the shortage of men occurred. Later the accumulation of women was constantly accepted and introduced women to more military tasks, which involved physical activities. According to Judith Stiehm (1989), she explained that women should bring their female qualities to alter the military’s masculine culture. The military was originally male territory. Men were first selected to workforce and leadership in worldwide due to typical masculine traits: acting as leader and willing to take risk (Landrine, Bardwell and Dean, 1988). Therefore, the worldwide argument, regarding to women’s glass ceiling, was whether the equal citizenry should be grant in military service; for women were restricted to gender roles, qualities and physical conditions.


2.3.1 Glass Ceiling in Israel’s Military

The conscription in Israeli Military was still a male dominant force, where women were serving the ‘traditional feminine’ jobs such as in ‘Special Chen Unit’, which was consisted of 3 special units – Teachers Unit, Chiba Auxuliary Police Unit and Yachas Auxiliary Nursing Unit. However, in Israel, women could volunteer to serve in combat unit. Normally, women serve there for one year, along the borders. Then in their second year, they could stay in the same unit or ask for transfer to a rear unit. The rules in the line units, applying for female soldiers, were women would be evacuated during the combat (Gal, 1986). Later in 2000, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) had passed the law which allowed women soldiers to perform in any military jobs, including combat roles. However, the combat roles were open for women soldiers who volunteered (Sasson-Levy, 2003). Due to this law, gender barriers and discrimination in Israeli Military could be reduced; for Israeli women had been given the opportunity to perform the masculine roles and Israeli women could earn more respect from men and other countries.

2.3.2 Glass Ceiling in United States’s Military

Similar to Israel, American female soldiers had been given many chances to perform their roles equally as men. In the United States, Assistant Secretary of Defence William Brehm requested, in April 6th 1972,the military departments in U.S. to abolish all unnecessary distinctions in regulations applying to women for women must be treated and give opportunities equally. Thus, the Defence Department had formulated the ‘contingency plan’ to bring more women to work in more widely tasks, non-traditional and traditional women’s duties, in the Army (Savell, Woelfel, Collins and Bentler, 1979).

In March 2011, the Military Leadership Diversity Commission recommended the Department of Defence to eliminate its combat-exlusion policies, which barred women from combat-arms speicialties and other related missions, which involved direct combat (Hemmerly-Brown, 2011). Nevertheless, the request had not been passed due to physical conditions [women could slow men down] and appropriateness between men and women in the same combat team [women’s privacy concerning sexual harassment]. Due to Rosen and Martin’s research on Sexual Harassment among male and female U.S. army soldiers (1998,pp.239) showed that 30% of women and 8% of men had ‘achknowledged having been sexually harassed in their units’. On the other hand, Staff Sgt. Genevives Chase (2011) insisted that all gender soldiers had the abilities and rights to serve the country equally. This kind of assignment could not be suitable to all women and not suitable to all men, either. Therefore, if this recommendation could pass and eliminated the military barriers, which concerned individual’s demographic membership than their personal abilities, it could set the strong and high standard to the military (Hemmerly-Brown, 2011).

2.3.3 Glass Ceiling in United Kingdom’s Military

In United Kingdom, the traditional genders barriers had begun to decrease in 1990s; for women could serve in every military branches – the Navy, Army and Air Force(United Kingdon’s Ministry of Defence, 2006). Nevertheless, British female soldiers were barred from roles, which could get close and kill the enemy. UK Ministry of Defence (2006) stated clearly that women could not serve in Royal Marine Commadores or Royal Air Force Regiment. However, the female soldiers’s career proportion was seemed very positive.

Figure 1Job Open for Women in British Armed Forces in 2006

 Source: United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence                (

Accessed on 23rd of August 2011

The proportion of women acceptance in the Ministry was very high especially in the Army, at the 96%. Also, in the rest two branches, women succeeded job opportunity at 71%, which seemed very impressive. However, the exclusion from some specific departments did not stop female soldiers from serving on the establishment or taking parts in units in administrative and support roles (UK MOD, 2006). Fortunately, in August 2011, Lieutenant Commander Sarah West would take command of HMS Portland, a type-32 frigate in April next year. She would be the first woman to command a British warship (Bolshaw, 2011). This emphasized the female leadership roles in the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence and the beginning of women’s wider responsibilities in the navy service. Therefore, the possibilities of women in other branches to take this same kind of leadership could be higher. Due to Air Commodore Barbara Cooper (2011), she stated that mixed-gender groups could provide an improved quality of output because the mix groups act in a different way from single-gender groups. Therefore, in Royal Airforce, women’s presence had benefited the quality of work (Bolshaw, 2011)

2.3.4 Glass Ceiling in South Korea’s Military

While the western and Middle East militaries allowed women to enter ‘masculine roles’, in Asian countries, women were not outstanding in the military performances. South Korea was strong patriarchal country. In 1937, Japan [Korea was Japan’s colony from 1910-1945(Chok-sik Lee, 1985)] was drafting Korean women to become ‘military comfort women’ (Soh, 1996). The ‘military comfort women’ was the term for women who had to provide sexual intercourses with the male soldiers during the war. Many Korean women had been ‘recruited with false promises of good compensation for their labor…then sent to the military comfort stations’ (Soh,1996, pp.1228). Therefore, women were used as sexual objects and considered as inferior gender in South Korea especially women’s history in the military.

In 1990s, South Korea had increased women’s roles in economic when the country wanted to expand its industrial businesses and agricultures. The number of women in workplace had strongly increased since 1970s. Therefore, women had become the ‘industrial frontier’ and ‘crucial force for industrial development’ especially in textile and all other female jobs (Park, 1993). Nevertheless, women’s status was still inferior to men. Women could not perform in traditionally male-dominanted areas like administrative and managerial sectors (Park, 1993). Also, the discrimination in wages between women and men were addressed. Nevertheless, there were few studies on South Korean female soldiers. Margie Serrato (2009) had done some interviews with South Korean Cadets. She found that women in the South Korea Military had difficulty to be accepted and treated equally to men in the military organization. However, these women had their families and friends to support them emotionally (Serrato, 2009).  Nevertheless, Republic of Korea (South Korea) Ministry of National Defence (2011) had showed a very decent human resource development for women by providing officer training to both men and women such as Nursing Adacemy, Officers with Bachelor’s Degree, Women’s Corps and etc.(Ministry of National Defence, 2011)

Most importantly, South Korea had been attacked by North Korea in 2010. Due to this conflict, the South Korea’ Military encouraged to recruit more women and female military students to fulfill the shortage of men and empower the military force (Williamson, 2010).

2.3.5  Glass Ceiling in Thailand’s Military

Thai Military had derived many combined influenced from United Kingdom and long relationship with United States and Republic of Korea. Therefore, the military culture in Thailand was combined to serve the international relationships and Thai traditions.

Thai women had increased their roles in military during Field Marshal Plaek Piboonsongkram was the prime minister. There was ‘The Greater East Asia War’ in the same time with World War ll. Therefore, Field Marshal Plaek established the female military students training program to fulfill the lack of male soldiers in 1941.  The female training was the same as the male training. After the training, the female soldiers would earn the rank of lieutenant same as the men. Later in 1943, Field Marshal Plaek had resigned as the Prime Minister. Thus, the female military training was abolished, and those female soldiers’ ranks were amended. (NAVY, 2009)

The return of female soldiers’ recruitment was in 1953 by Lieutenant General Suthi Suthisarankorn, Assistant Chief of Staff for Royal Thai Army. Since then, women were recruited as university graduate; for women were not allowed to enter military schools. After their recruitment and trainning, the women soldiers would be assign to their military branches which are Royal Thai army, Navy and Air force (NAVY, 2009)

Nevertheless, after the Greater East Asia war was over, women’s roles in Thai Military were not assigned to fulfill masculine tasks. However, Thai Military always encouraged women into military activities, which were fitted to female qualities. Women’s role, in Thailand and military context, emphasized the maternal qualities such as caring, gentle and neat. Therefore, the Thai Military used the maternal qualities to connect the Military Organization with the civilians that the Military did not only defend the country’s welfare, but also encourage civilian’s activities when there was no war. Therefore, the organization like ‘Thai Army Wives’ had been established. The aims and objectives of this organization were encouraging the unity within Army organization, supporting the Army workers’ families [children’s tuition fee deposit, career development and opportunities for low-rank soldiers and their families] and becoming efficient non-profit organization, which was not involving with politics (Thaiarmywives, 2011).

It was obvious that women in military did not cross the male’s duties, but greatly interdependent and support the men. In military working area, women could not have higher rank than men; for they had not received the proper military education [entering military schools]. Therefore, women were, naturally, stopped to one stage, same as men who had been recruited with university degree, when military graduated men could reach higher.

Nevertheless, women in the Military were not bothered with the Glass Ceiling due to the Thai culture and the distinguished roles between men and women in Thai Society.

2.5          Thai Culture and Belief which Affect Women’s Roles in Thai Society

According to Sarutta, Thai woman, in the past, had to take care of her husband and be obedient to him. ‘An edict promulgated in 1861 stipulated that men had right to have several wives. No matter whether women were born in high or low society, they all had a lower status than men’ (Sarutta, 2002, pp1). Thus, the main duties of Thai women were being obedient to the men and performing the maternal duty for their families. Also, the religion could be another factor which affects women’s rights. Buddhism was Thailand’s main religion. Due to Chareonnla (1983), The Culture of Thailand had two important sources of origin — indigenous and foreign. The indigenous source came from the ideas and inspiration of the people while the foreign sources came through its cultural contact with other great civilized nations such as India and China. The customs, traditions, ceremonials and festivals of Thailand are derived from those sources. This combination of Buddhism affected and formed the national ideal and conception of life (Chareonla, 1983). According to Pipat (2006) Thai’s influential temples and Buddhist scholars taught that women and homosexual people were inferior, so protocols within Buddhist practice had derived from this inherent belief. Women were therefore forbidden in sacred places such as certain pagodas. It was common in northern Thailand to see a sign in front of a pagoda saying “Women not allowed.” Similarly, homosexuals were discriminated. Homosexuality was seen as the result of bad karma accumulated in past lives, so homosexuals would not be considered for ordination as well (Pipat, 2006). Therefore, women’s perceptions, concerning their rights, had been shaped by the religion. ‘Thai women had been taught since they were young about their expected role and duties, and had grown up in the cultural environment that made them familiar with such practices’ (Surutta, 2002, pp1). However, Buddhism was not strong discriminated religion on women’s rights; because Buddhism gives the opportunity for women to perform and study Buddhism almost equally as men. For example, Buddhism allowed women to ordinate as Buddhism nun (bhikkhuni), but Bhikkhuni would have different rules with the male monks (bhikkhu) due to their physical conditions such as menstruation. Therefore, Buddhism could sustain women’s abilities and social acceptances (Nakkarnrian, 2005). Another incidence which emphasizes that Thai women were not offended by Buddhism is in 2004. The Thai female Senator from Kon Khaen (a city in the north eastern part of Thailand), Senator Rabiaprat Pongpanithas urged northern temples to scrap the prohibition on women accessing Buddha relics, saying the measure violates women and human rights due to the 16th Constition in 1997 on the subject of gender equality. However, the northern temples followers became massively angry with her action and protested against Senator Rabiaprat , claiming that she did not understand the ‘Lan-na’’s primitive tradition [the former name of the northern part of Thailand] (Kaewmorakot & Praditpong, 2004). This revealed that majority of Thai people, including large number of women, did not feel offended with the restricted rules for women in Thailand because it was already the part of the accepted teachings and traditions.

2.5.1    The Improved Condition for Women in Thai Society

The late 19th century, Thai society had encouraged women’s potential in many fields such as education, labour force, politics and etc. According to Rama V’s great educational modification in 1871(Thai Ministry of Education, 1998), the first official boy school was established. Later in 1874, the first official girl school was founded (SriThong & Thepsumaetanon, 1990). Also, Thailand had derived various cultures from western countries, which were seen as civilized nations. Thus, if the western countries had improved the women’s rights, Thailand would encourage women’s status as well. During King Rama the sixth’s period (1910-1925), he had studied in England in 1853. He experienced the advancement of English women; therefore he wanted to improve Thai women’s life. According to Sarutta (2002), numerous articles written by the king (King Rama Vl, under his alias, Asvabahu) indicated that He was not satisfied with the status of Thai women and felt that men and women should enjoy equal rights. Also, the king strongly expressed his view to correct some old beliefs, values, and traditions that made women inferior to men. The king once wrote: “Women are still much oppressed. For example, they are prohibited from having long hair (after marriage) for reasons of not looking neat… Some men consider wearing short hair and keeping teeth black suggest the politeness of women. Women are also deprived of the right to associate with men…for the reason that if women obtain too much freedom, they will be spoilt” (Sarutta, 2002, pp.1). According to Professor Sukunya SukBantad’s article in ‘5 March 1997’, she wrote that Asvabahu (or King Rama 6th) stated his opinion towards noble men’s selfishness by purchasing women to be their mistresses. After the noble men got bored of those women, they would throw the women away and make the women’s lives becoming more miserable. Eventually, these women would become prostitutes (SudBantad, 1997). In conclusion to the King’s article, women were unlucky because the law, which men had enforced, did not benefit women to claim their rights (Matichon, 2004). Fortunately, women’s rights and recognition were later addressed by authorities and presses. Therefore, the 16th constitution of Thailand in 1997 had enforced the law on gender equity.

According to the Thailand’s constitution on gender equity, women had received greater right to express their performances and abilities in many fields. Women had the right to apply for political candidates and even become the Prime Minister. Therefore, the leadership of Thai women had been vastly appeared.

2.6          Leadership in women

Kanter (1977) stated that women had difficulties in leadership roles in particular business organization; for their status and power differences. These differences could manifest the need for women in ‘lower in status and power to use leadership styles’ which could be more deferential in nature to ask for cooperation. This could lead to cooperation denial. Another possible denial of women to become successful leader was they could be under strong pressure of expressing their ‘expected’ female qualities in nurturing and caring in workplace (Heilman, 1995). Thus, women would, perhaps, not be seen as assertive leaders.

Leadership mostly required masculine qualities. According to Paludi (2008), women encountered with some difficulties in doing leadership role because the leadership responsibility had firstly belonged to men. Therefore, the characteristic of leader would be based to men’s qualities. Moreover, women were restricted to ‘gender roles expectations’ (Paludi,2008). Eagly and Wood (1991) had explained that female roles was being identified with the historical social roles which women had derived especially house chores and childrearing.

However, according to the previous subjects on women in military, women could expand to the masculine roles in some major countries like U.S.A and Israel; therefore, the restriction of women should not be limited in only house chores and childrearing. Women had expressed that they were more capable in various fields of challenges. Nevertheless, women could manifest their leadership skills through their unique female qualities, too; for the male qualities or stereotypes would not entirely fit to women, due to the theory of ‘role congruity’ (Early and Karau, 2002). Therefore, women, who derived or imitated male leadership characteristics, might fail to be effective leaders.

This research aimed to focus leadership styles, focusing on women in military. Eagly and Johnson (1990) posited that men were more autocratic style of leaders, while women were more democratic. Eagly and Johnson had used Kurt Lewin’s Leadership styles theory (1939) to explain the both gender’s leadership characteristics. Therefore, this research would aim to testify whether women in Thai Military were highly democratic or they were fitted to autocratic style.

2.6.1 Leadership Styles by Kurt Lewin

In 1939, Kurt Lewin introduced 3 different styles of Leadership, which were ‘Authoritarian’, ‘Participative’ and ‘Delegative’ Leaderships. Lewin’s leadership styles were strongly influential theory to explain the role and performance of leader in an organization.

The Delegative style, which was also known as ‘Laissez faire’, was the least productive according to Lewin’s study. The leader in this style would give little or no guidance to the followers. On the contrary, the participative (democratic) style was highly regarded as the most efficient style; for the democratic leader would give the chance to followers to involve in decision making, express opinions and make consensus (Clark, 2011). Lewin (1944) wrote in his ‘Research Approach to Leadership Problem’, “Democratic leadership is a role that can be played adequately only if the followers play their part.” This implied that the use of leadership style was also involved with environment and followers, too. Lastly, Authoritative style (or autocratic) was likely to apply well with military context; for the leader in this style needs to have clear vision and make assertive decisions with little or no input from the rest of the team (Cherry, 2011)

According to the literatures, they would be used to analyse the further findings from the data collection and justify whether the Glass Ceiling in Thai Military could offer the new aspect in Glass Ceiling and how Thai women soldiers overcome the gender barriers in their careers and perform their leadership role in the remaining male dominant area like the Ministry of Defence.

More Chapters :

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Literature Review
Chapter 3: Methodology
Chapter 4 Findings and Discussion
Chapter 5: Conclusion