The glass ceiling: definition, history, effects and examples (2023)

What is the glass ceiling?

The term glass ceiling refers to a metaphorical invisible barrier that prevents certain people from being promoted to leadership and managerial positions within an organization.Industry. The phrase is often used to describe the difficulties women and minorities face when trying to rise to higher roles in a male-dominated society.corporate hierarchy. The barriers are mostly unwritten, meaning that accepted norms and implicit biases prevent these people from progressing, rather than defined company policies.

The central theses

  • The glass ceiling is a slang term for the social barrier that prevents women from ascending to senior management positions.
  • The term was expanded to include discrimination against minorities.
  • In 1978, Marilyn Loden coined the expression "glass ceiling" at a women's exhibition.
  • Women make up 56.8% of the US workforce, but hold only 29.1% of management positions.
  • The US Department of Labor created the Glass Ceiling Commission in 1991 to address the issue of the glass ceiling.

Understanding the glass ceiling

Marilyn Loden first coined the phrase "glass ceiling" when speaking as a panelist at the 1978 Women's Expo in New York. As an understudy for the only female executive at her employer, Loden was invited to discuss how women explain the barriers that prevent them from advancing their careers. Instead, she spoke about deeper, ignored issues that have historically prevented women from holding positions of authority: the glass ceiling.

This concept later became popular in 1986.Wall Street JournalArticles about the corporate hierarchy and how seemingly invisible barriers prevent women from advancing beyond a certain level in their careers. In 2015, the publication (quoting Gay Bryant, the former editor ofWorker womanMagazine) that the concept dates back to the 1970s and may have originated with two women at Hewlett-Packard.The concept has recently been expanded to include minorities other than women.

Equality gaps vary from country to country and may be due to cultural attitudes that discourage women and minority groups from participating in the labor market. Companies in the United States have responded to the equality gap by focusing onMeasures to increase diversity. This includes hiring staff specifically tasked with ensuring that women and minorities are better represented in leadership positions. By focusing on policies that reduce or eliminate the glass ceiling, companies can ensure that the most qualified candidates are in decision-making positions.


In 2021, women made up 56.8% of the US workforce.But when it came to top executive positions, women held just 29.1% of those positions, and 85.7% of CEOs identified as white, according to the report.Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS).

Research shows that heterogeneous groups make more successful decisions than homogeneous ones, indicating to organizations that removing the glass ceiling can have a positive impact on their bottom line.

History of the glass ceiling

The US Department of Labor established the Glass Ceiling Commission in 1991 in response to growing concerns about barriers that prevent women and minorities from moving up.He was charged with identifying existing barriers and policies that companies have implemented or could be taking to increase diversity at management and leadership levels.

The commission found that qualified women and minorities were denied the opportunity to apply for or win decision-making positions. It was also found that the perceptions of both workers and employers often contained stereotypes that cast a negative light on women and minorities.

When Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2008 and 2016, she repeatedly spoke of her goal of breaking the "highest and toughest glass ceiling" by becoming the first female president of the United States. Vice presidentkamala harrisshattered the second-tallest glass ceiling in the US when she became the first female and first black and South Asian vice president on January 20, 2021. She was also the first female and also the first black attorney general and South Asian from California to be the first black woman elected San Francisco state attorney.

(Video) Glass Ceiling - Glass Cliffs - Glass Walls


The number of female CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies in 2021, the highest number yet, but still only 8.1% of the total.

The Glasdecke vs. crystal stones

Whatglass cliffis a closely related term, but refers to a phenomenon in which women often rise to positions of power in times of crisis, when they are more likely to fail. This could happen in areas as diverse as finance, politics, technology, and science.

While the more common glass ceiling presents a barrier to reaching the highest levels of leadership in their respective organizations, the glass cliff addresses the tendency to place women who have outgrown it in precarious positions, making it likely that their performance is in the background. as if they were in danger of falling off a cliff.

If Hillary Clinton won the 2008 presidential election, that was the highlight of theThe great Depression, she may have been seen as a victim of the crystal cliff. The term was coined in 2004 by Professors Michelle K. Ryan and Alexander Haslam of the University of Exeter, UK. Ryan and Haslam extensively documented this phenomenon in a study of UK FTSE 100 companies.

Example of the glass ceiling

There are numerous examples of people hitting the glass ceiling and going through it. As mentioned above, Hillary Clinton was the first woman to secure the Democratic nomination when she ran for president in the 2016 election.

(Video) The Glass Ceiling by

As mentioned above, Kamala Harris broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first woman to be elected US Vice President under PresidentJoe Biden. She is also the first Black and South Asian person to be elected to this position. Harris was officially sworn in as Vice President on January 20, 2021.

janet yellenshe became the first female finance minister thereafterbe nominatedby President Biden and sworn in on January 26, 2021. This is also not the first glass ceiling Yellen has broken. She also served as the first woman in command.Federal reserve, a position he held during the administration of President Barack Obama.

What does the term glass ceiling mean?

The glass ceiling is a metaphor that refers to the barrier that marginalized people, such as women and minorities, encounter when trying to pursue a career.

What is an example of the glass ceiling?

There are many examples where people have broken the glass ceiling. Kamala Harris broke a glass ceiling when she became the first female Vice President of the United States. She is also the first black and the first person of South Asian descent to be elected to the position of vice president.

(Video) What is the Glass Ceiling? Is it beginning to crack?

From the first US presidential election in 1789 until the early 21st century, no black person was president. Only with the approval of theVoting Rights Act of 1965that all blacks can vote.However, in 2008, Barack Obama became the first African American to be elected President of the United States.

What does it mean to break the glass ceiling?

Breaking the glass ceiling means breaking down the barriers that prevent access to Ascension. Breaking the glass ceiling also means removing barriers for other people who have the same problems.

Where does the saying "Break the glass ceiling" come from?

The term glass ceiling was coined in 1978 by Marilyn Loden, an executive at a New York telephone company, during a women's fair.

Is the glass ceiling still there?

The glass ceiling still exists in all sectors for different groups of people. Men continue to occupy most of the positions of responsibility in companies and other positions of power. Although more attention is paid to these obstacles, they are still very present in the workforce.

(Video) Does the Glass Ceiling Still Exist?


1. The "Glass Ceiling" Is Misleading
(Big Think)
2. A glass ceiling - or a broken ladder?- BBC News
(BBC News)
3. How to break the glass ceiling without breaking yourself | Summers Boutwell | TEDxFlowerMound
(TEDx Talks)
4. The Ethics of a Glass Ceiling - Studium Generale - Tilburg University
5. Glass Ceiling Effect | Motivational video for women | Mental Health | B.A,B.Sc, M.A, M.Sc Psychology
(Psychology Ki Pathshala with Shreya)
6. Paul Sinclair talks with Mark Olly
(Paul Sinclair TRUTH-PROOF)


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