Glass Ceiling in Thailand’s Ministry of Defense: How Thai female soldiers overcome gender barriers in male dominant workplace (Chapter 5: Conclusion)

เนื้อหางานวิจัยนี้ สงวนลิขสิทธิ์โดยผู้วิจัย Suthathip Sararith

Chapter 5: Conclusion

5.1 Introduction

The previous chapters of this dissertation have demonstrated that the literature could explain and help analyse the findings from the data collection. Nevertheless, the findings had argued and supported the existing literatures. Therefore, this chapter would conclude if the discussion and findings could meet with the research’s aim and objectives.

Research Objective Findings
Exploring Thai female soldiers’ current working environment in the Ministry of Defence  Thai women soldiers were satisfied with career stability, career benefits and overall organizational culture
Exploring how Thai female soldiers express and fulfill themselves in military Military Disciplines and Social Tradition restricted the workers’ expression and women could fulfill the military in the supporting roles.
Exploring Thai women’s leadership skills Women in Thai military did not have to derive masculine qualities to be accepted as the leader. The female qualities and Buddhism teaching could benefit their leadership performances.
Exploring how Thai women became successful in male dominant workplace Women and men distinguished lines and roles, so women could accept that their peak of career might not be as high as men. In the same time, men need to respect women as well.

Figure 4: Research Objectives and Finding

5.2 Conclusion from the findings and discussion chapter

The aim of this research was to understand how women in Thai Military develop their career successes in male dominant workplace and leadership approach to their subordinates. The objectives of this study were to explore the current working environment of Thai female military officers, how female military workers express and fulfill themselves in the overall organization, how they use and gain leadership skills to mix gender subordinates, and how they overcome the barriers in their workplace in the term of gender discrimination. Therefore, the conclusion part would state how the findings and discussion met the aim and objectives of this dissertation.

5.2.1 Glass Ceiling issue in the Ministry of Defence

According to the findings, 5 participants agreed there was a glass ceiling in the ministry. Therefore, the majority of female military officers could experience the existing of Glass Ceiling. However, all participants had explained the improvement of the Ministry’s female career advancement. They stated that the ministry had given more career opportunity to women such as women could be promoted to Captain Major during their career lives [without early retirement] and the increasing number of women workers in the Ministry. While, Thai women soldiers could accept the limited career advancement and responsibilities as supporting roles, women soldiers in United States, United Kingdom and Israel had struggled to eliminate gender barriers in all military activities. , so the glass ceiling could be reduced especially in physical assignments. Thai women soldiers did not have this similar ambition; for Thai women had been restricted with Thai culture and belief of women’s ‘supporting’ roles.

5.2.2    How women overcome gender barriers in male dominant workplace

According to the findings, Thai women in military seemed to prepare themselves to encounter with Glass Ceiling and gender barriers after they entered the military. Nevertheless, working in the Thai military, the men could not suppress them or abuse them due to the law, social etiquette and military disciplines. Therefore, the participants did not feel uncomfortable and dissatisfied in the ministry. Moreover, the factors which the women could overcome the gender barriers had been divided into two main factors, working stability with career benefits and military graduated. Women in Thai Military were motivated to work in the Ministry of Defence because of work facilities, and they understood that male military students would take the positions of ‘Director-General’ to higher rank like the Minister. Therefore, the highest that women could get was ‘Deputy Director-General’, which Thai female soldiers seemed satisfied with it. Also, the ‘Military Army Wives’ in Thai Military emphasized the roles to encourage military welfare and social works based of women qualities. Therefore, the roles of men and women had distinguished – not to judge whether one or another was better, but both genders could fulfill and complete each other in the way they were special for.

Consequence from the earlier finding in Thai Military, it seemed to contradict with ‘Glass Ceiling in Military’ literature. Women in United States,Israel and United Kingdom Ministries of Defence had to perform their physical strength in completing their equal rights and acceptances in the military. They had to add male stereotypes to themselves in order to work with the men, while the participants in Thai Military did not have to add male qualities to be accepted. On the other hand, if Thai women soldiers derived high masculine qualities, they might not be accepted in the organization and overall social perception due to the Thai women’s traditional custom. The difference between women’s military roles in western countries and Asian countries could be based on the cultural traditions and beliefs. Thai female soldiers could be identified with the South Korean in the term of performing women’s ‘supporting’ roles in the military. Therefore, Thai female soldiers, according to the participants’ answers, could overcome gender barrier in the military because they could accept and be satisfied with the Thai social culture and organizational culture.

5.2.3    How Women Become Successful in Male Dominant Workplace

The participants worked in the supporting departments where the number of women was high. Therefore, they could become successful or be promoted easier than women in the Royal Thai Army Headquarters and other combat components such as Artillery Division, Engineer Division and etc; for these kinds of departments required male characteristics. Thus, male soldiers were primary selected. This was, again, contradicting to the literature of ‘Glass Ceiling in Military’; for those women in international context worked under the different job descriptions with these research participants, but they could be promoted to the male original positions.

Nevertheless, the participants did not mention about their ranking or the pressure from working in male dominant area when they were being asked about how they gained their successes. They mostly stated about the general qualities of becoming successful worker such as being tolerant, responsible to works, passion in working, timing and patronage system. The intensive pressure of working in male dominant workplace was not stated as their obstacles. Therefore, the keys to success of these participants were not related to how they could become successful in male dominant workplace but how they could become successful in their works in general context.

5.2.4 Female Leadership Approach to Subordinates and Gaining Leadership skills

According to the findings, the senior officers did not seem to treat both genders subordinates differently in order to favour one or another, or approach male subordinates with milder manner to ask for cooperation (Kanter, 1977). They gave both genders equity. Nevertheless, some of the participants stated that they might have treated their subordinates differently when they had to ‘put the right person to the right job’. Therefore, the different kinds of works such as outdoor business or critical analysis might belong to the men and the ‘routine’ works or proved-reading might belong to the women due to their gender qualities. Nevertheless, the subordinates’ individual personalities and characteristics were the most important factors to evoke the leaders’ interactions and leadership approaches. Therefore, some of the leader-participants needed to slightly change their characteristics, such as acting stronger and being more assertive in order to gain the respect or obedience from their subordinates.

Due to Kurt Lewin’s leadership styles (1939, 1944), the majority of the participants used the ‘autocratic leadership’ approach to their subordinates due to the military working style, which the leaders must decide and be responsible to the overall results. Therefore, absolute power was required in military. However, the ‘democratic leadership’ approach could partly be used in the supporting departments. Nonetheless, the mixture of leadership styles could bring greater advantage to the organization and be usefully applied to various situations.

Fortunately, the finding revealed another leadership style which manifested Thai belief in Buddhism. The participant used Buddhism approach to perform her leadership. The 5 commandments were her principles to restrict her leadership performance. If the leader could follow these 5 commandments, her subordinates would respect and look up to her as decent role model. Also, this emphasized Thai people believed in Buddhism, which was the foundation of other traditions.

In the subject of gaining leadership skills, the participants had not mentioned that they needed to derive their leadership skills by imitating or deriving male qualities to fulfill the role of leader. Some of them had stated that they might need to be stronger in personality to entrust their subordinates. However, the cores of their answers indicated their personal development in the term of knowledge, confidence and assertive decision making. This supported Early and Karau’s (2002) ‘role congruity’ theory that leadership often required masculine qualities; however, the unique female qualities could be better applied to women and help women performing their leadership roles efficiently.

The glass ceiling did not make women in Thai military seemed weaker and incapable of performing leadership role. Gender did not affect or limit military women to be submissive to male subordinates. They had been supported with ranks, military disciplines and working experiences. Therefore, genders in military do not affect their leader performances, but genders distinguished working responsibilities in specific assignments like routine works or supporting roles would be women and action should be men.

5.2.5    How Women Express and Fulfill Themselves in the Ministry of Defence

Due to the findings, the participants often mentioned about ‘military disciplines’. Therefore, the military disciplines and regulations were important matters to restrict how the soldiers should behave and express themselves in the office. According to the further studies in military regulations, the Directorate of Personnel (2011) had enforced various areas to cover all disciplinary military regulations such as ‘traditional custom’ area, ‘military disciplines’ area, ‘governing’ area and  etc. The military disciplines and manners in the organization were the same regulations with the both genders soldiers. Therefore, women had the equal right as men to express themselves in the Ministry of Defence. Nevertheless, Thai women were restricted to the tradition and custom. As in ‘Thai Culture and Belief which Affect Women’s Roles in Thai Society’ Literature, women needed men’s protection. The social customs would not be stated in the military disciplines or regulations; however, women would notice these etiquettes by the family teaching, experiences and social perception. Therefore, Thai female soldiers did not seem to have ambition in fulfilling the masculine tasks like serving in frontline like U.S.A. or Israel.

According to the majority of participants, women could fulfill the ministry works in supporting the working performances to be more efficient such as financial work, accounting management, medical care and etc. Also, women had the maternal qualities, which evoked the meticulous and elaborate working support, while most men could be lack of these qualities. This, again, supported the women roles in Thai society that they were in the ‘supporting’ component for men both at home and in workplace. Therefore, having women in workplace could help improving the overall performances and creating diversity in the organization.

5.2.6    Current Working Environment for Female soldiers

According to the participants’ interviews and overall observation, the current working environment for Thai female military officers was adequate. Their answers towards female working environment could be identified with women’s working improvement and acceptance in international context; for women in overseas had increasingly earned respects in military. According to the participants, the ministry had provided women better career advancement and constantly promotion due to their seniorities and working experiences. Moreover, the government and military benefits could fulfill their career motivations. Therefore, women could be well-satisfied with their works. The overall environment seemed to benefit women workers as well. In the participants’ offices, the population of women was as equal as men due to career descriptions. Therefore, the pressure of gender discrimination or inferior gender was not seen in the office. Furthermore, the majority of the participants did not bother by working in male dominant workplace. Fortunately, women could hold the positions of department director and deputy director, so the younger women could look up to the female director and deputy director to derive the working motivation and inspiration. Nevertheless, this working environment was impressive in Thai participants’ perceptions, but it might not be satisfied for women in U.S., U.K. and Israel; for they had already been assigned with more male-challenging type of assignments.

Similar to Thai female soldiers, women in world-wide context had better career advancement and equal right with men. The equal rights with men could be based on the law and social acceptance. However, they could be restricted with some limitations concerning their physical conditions (especially in western countries like United States and United Kingdom) and traditional roles of women (especially in Asian countries like South Korea and Thailand). However, women constantly seek their ways to success and breaking the Glass Ceiling, which had been successfully showed in Israeli military. Later, the number of women, who were responsible to wider ranges of military tasks, should increase.


5.3          Implication for Theory

The main theories which covered this study were ‘Glass Ceiling’ and ‘Leadership’. According to the study, Glass Ceiling existed in Thai Ministry of Defence; however, the soldiers were not bothered by it. Women in Thai Military did not ask for expansion of their career responsibilities, in order to break the glass ceiling and claim the equal right, into masculine tasks like U.S.A, U.K. or Israel. Although, women in Thai Military had encountered with Glass Ceiling, their leadership roles were not affected by it. The majority of them could demonstrate in autocratic leadership style.

The fact that women in Thai military did not bother by the Glass Ceiling should happen due to Thai Customs, women needed men’s protection, as if the men would use power to protect women and women use brain power to support the men. The line in Thai society towards genders had been established. According to this, women could not cross the line to act and replace the men’s roles, and men must treat women with respect by not crossing the line and violating women’s prides. However, both genders could interdependent and fulfill each other when the situation needed. Thus, women in Thai military did not struggle to become the ‘Director-General’ positions or higher. They felt the ‘Deputy Director-General’ or department director were prestigious enough for them. They admitted the ‘supporting’ roles which the organization and society had given to them. Therefore, Glass Ceiling would not always define the equal rights between two genders, but could be an effect from tradition and culture of individual countries, societies or organizations. If women wanted to break the Glass Ceiling, they would try to accomplish it. However, if women, like the participants in this research, thought of Glass ceiling as organizational culture and long-respect tradition, they would find the way to adjust themselves to it.

According to the senior participants, they could express leadership role even though they were women in male dominant workplace. They were not bothered with gender as long as they had confidence in their professions. According to Kanter (1977) and Heilman (1995), they explained that women could be limited to inferior status and expected women’s qualities, so they might not perform well as the leaders. Nevertheless, Early and Karau (2002) argued that women could perform best with their female qualities, ‘role congruity’. Therefore, the participants’ answers could support Early and Karau’s theory that successful women, especially being leaders in male dominant workplace, did not have to change or derive male stereotypes and qualities to earn respect and become capable of leadership. They could remain their female qualities and perform their best for their professions. Also, according to Thai customs, it could be offensive for women to derive male qualities to perform equally as men. If women did that, it could imply that women’s qualities were weak, so they needed to derive male qualities to fulfill and hide their weaknesses to lift their status to the men. On the contrary, it would be more effective, if women could perform well with their female qualities in their professional specialties.

In conclusion, women in Thai Military had to encounter with the Glass Ceiling, but it was not seen as the problem. They thought of it as traditional organizational issue, which had long been accepted and respected. Therefore, they did not try to break the glass ceiling. This could be explained through Thai cultures towards genders and organizational culture. Therefore, the results from these Thai female soldiers seemed contradict to other women soldiers in U.K., U.S.A. and Israel; for those international women had struggled to break the glass ceiling and performed the masculine roles to emphasize the equal rights between genders. Also, South Korea, which shared similar cultural background with Thailand, had recruited female military soldiers but Thailand had not. However, if this research had taken place in other Thai organizations like public companies and politics, the findings might be different and fitted to the international context of Glass Ceiling which women tried to break the glass ceiling to ensure the equal rights; for they believed they had abilities to do so and the Thai laws had supported the equity of civilians.

5.4          Implication for Management Practice

According to this research, the employer, the Ministry of Defence, had provided very effective career stability to the participants, employees. Therefore, they were satisfied with their works and could overcome difficulties such as military disciplines, Glass Ceiling and etc. However, the Ministry of Defence should be aware of their equity issue in international context; for women in developed countries like U.S.A and U.K. or patriotic country like Israel had expanded women’s responsibilities in masculine roles. Also, the Republic of Korea had encouraged the arm force performance by recruiting female military students which implied that both genders in Republic of Korea were capable in defending the country. Due to these international movements, Thailand’s Ministry of Defence might be understood as incompetent organization; for preventing women from masculine roles.

If Thai Military encouraged women in masculine roles, it could supplement Thailand Army, Air force and Navy’s practices and reliability in defending country. However, it would affect the Thai culture. Therefore, the Ministry of Defence could offer the opportunity for women to enter the military schools and allow women to volunteer to the frontier. The Ministry could take notice in Israel Military where had abolished exclusion policies and allowed women to volunteer in combat roles.


5.5 Limitations and Recommendations for Future Research

5.5.1 Limitation of the current study

The limitations of the study were the group of the participants and the difficulty in finding Thai military document evidence.

There were 2 groups of participants, the senior ones with successes in career and the junior ones with few experiences in their works. Therefore, the success of the senior participants could distort the typical theory of glass ceiling; for they had already overcome these issues or they were about to reach their retirement. In the junior participants, they had served less than 5 years in the military. Thus, their perceptions towards the overall military organization were still in exploratory stage. Due to these factors, the participants might not emphasize the issue of glass ceiling fully. Also, the size of research group was small and in supporting departments, where women were highly accepted. Therefore, their ways of working might not efficient to address the overall organization’s welfare and structures.

The Thai military documents and proofs, related to number of workers, pre-training regulations and some other evident supports, were too difficult to access in such short period. According to the participants, the documents related to number of workers or ranking promotion and salary were kept confidentially. The pre-training of all Thai officers before assigning to each branch and department could be valuable evidence to support the equity of gender physical abilities between men and women; for the participants revealed that both genders had been trained the same. Nevertheless, there was no document or academic support, so the researcher found the participants’ answers alone becoming too weak to support this important matter.



5.4.5    Recommendations for Future Research

The future research should be taken place in main commanding line departments; for women might be oppressed with male-dominant area and male job descriptions. Moreover, the researcher should explore military offices outside Bangkok for studying social diversity in other areas. Also, the larger number of participants should help giving clearer vision and understanding in Thai Ministry of Defence. The research should collect data from male soldiers in order to investigate male opinions towards female presence in male dominant workplace because male opinions might contradict to women or they could support the women’s answers and make the research result becoming more effective. Lastly, due to the limited time in the previous research, the researcher could not ask for some military documents, which the participants and other officers stated those documents were kept confidentially. However, if the researcher had more time, the possibility to obtain the military documents should be higher. Therefore, the future research should study the structure of the military and spare more time in asking for the military academic documents.


5.5  Conclusion

In conclusion, Glass Ceiling and gender discrimination could be perceptible in every workplace if there was consisted of two genders. The diversity of men and women would always be controversy because of their physical and mental differences. This controversy could be overcome if an individual understood, accepted and tried to adjust with it, but it could not entirely fade away. Moreover, the Glass Ceiling and gender discrimination could occur or alter due to specific situations such as the lack of men during war time, so women could participant or the need of physical strength, so male nurses had been recruited and etc. Therefore, the studies of Glass Ceiling could stand over time and everlasting topic tostudy about.

More Chapters :

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