Shattered the Glass-Ceiling, Now What?

Meghna Sabharwal

Meghna Sabharwal is an associate professor and PhD advisor in the public and nonprofit management program at the University of Texas at Dallas. Her research interests are focused on public human resources management, specifically workforce diversity, job performance, job satisfaction and high-skilled migration. She is widely published in public administration journals. She also has two book publications: Public Personnel Administration (6th Ed.) and Public Administration in South Asia: India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. She won the 2016 University of Texas at Dallas Inclusive Excellence and Intercultural Engagement Teaching Award. She is also the 2015 recipient of the Julia J. Henderson International Award (2015) by the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) Section on Women in Public Administration. She has won several graduate and undergraduate teaching awards. She is also the recipient of two National Science Foundation grants to study reverse brain drain among scientists and engineers in academia and industry to India. Meghna is the chair of one of the largest and most active sections at ASPA, Section for Women in Public Administration, and is the Vice Chair of the Committee for the Support of Diversity and Equity at UTD. She graduated with a PhD in public administration from Arizona State University in 2008.


The dominant paradigm that frames the challenges women face in attaining upward mobility has been the glass ceiling metaphor. Over the last decades women have made steady progress and are moving to positions of leadership. However, women in leadership positions continue to face an uphill battle; they are often placed in precarious positions, setting them up for failure and pushing them over the edge – a phenomenon recently termed as “glass cliff.” This research examines the challenges women in Senior Executive Service face in various U.S. federal government agencies. The study finds that organizations are gendered, and those women leaders working in women dominated environments are less likely to leave. The odds of women falling off the cliff (expressing intent to leave) is less when women have influence over policy-making decisions, feel empowered and experience organizational equities.