The Glass Ceiling


There are women out there right now reading this blog post for one reason — the title. The glass ceiling. Women and members of minorities work hard all their lives and often can never reach their potential in their chosen profession. Why? An invisible barrier that is unofficially acknowledged in business that especially affects women and minorities but can affect men too. That barrier is called the glass ceiling, a term coined in the 1980’s which represents a barrier to a forbidden level of achievement in the business world, usually upper management.

The glass ceiling is actually an unfair system of prejudices through which employees can see the next level of advancement above their current professional positions but can’t attain those positions because of gender, age, ethnicity, or political and religious affiliation. The media focuses mostly on the inability of women to break through the glass ceiling, but minorities have just as many problems as do women and so do older employees and those of political or religious affiliations that do not set well with upper management. These employees who are staring straight up at the glass ceiling are just as qualified and deserving as other employees who are not hampered by the glass ceiling.

Hillary Clinton, when she won the Democratic Presidential nomination, shattered the highest and hardest glass ceiling in the world. That did not solve the problems for all the women in the world who will still be banging their heads on that glass. There are a plethora of metaphors that are offshoots of the glass ceiling metaphor. For example, young black women claim that there is no glass ceiling for them. They can’t even see through that ceiling and they call it the concrete ceiling! Working mothers call it the “maternal wall.” Asian employees refer to it as the “bamboo ceiling.” There are even more associated metaphors.

Lest the white males who are reading this post feel left out, they are not. There has been more than one case of a man choosing a profession usually reserved for a woman or a member of a minority group who has run up against the glass ceiling. There is a case study of a man who entered the field of sales and applied for a job selling beauty products. He encountered substantial resistance from women in the field. The fields of nursing and public relations are other examples. Those are traditionally women-dominated fields. Men entering those fields often face increased scrutiny, stereotyping, and they bump their heads on the glass ceiling. It forces men to face what women have been encountering in forbidden career choices for years.  When men are affected in this way, it is called the reverse glass ceiling.

Most business analysts believe the glass ceiling has been cracked but not broken. Women still have a hard time climbing to the top. I experienced this myself and you can read about my struggle in my own career in Women and Autonomy: Self-Determination. Baby boomers who have retired and are re-entering the workplace because, perhaps, their retirement savings is not enough to sustain them face age discrimination. Black Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans – they face the same struggles women face in climbing to the top in the management of businesses. Employees who loudly express political views and employees who make their religious affiliations known may also have problems climbing to the top.

Some in the media and the business world like to claim that the glass ceiling has been broken because of women like Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina, who was head of Hewlett-Packard. Fiorina proclaimed the days of the glass ceiling to be over. Fiorina is wrong. Jone Johnson Lewis, in her article Glass Ceiling for Women, cites a Reuters study, conducted in 2008, that says 95% of American workers believe that strides women have made in the job market have improved dramatically, but 86% say that the glass ceiling has been cracked but not broken. There are only women in 14% of the major CEO jobs in the U.S. There are five Black Americans who are CEO’s and Asian Americans are less than two percent of CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies.

There is some hope for the future. Another blogger has found that companies with diversity goals pay their female employers a premium salary in order to draw them in. Check out her blog post. Another blogger encourages women to be their own advocate in her blog post. Yet another blogger discusses how to break the glass ceiling.

The glass ceiling may be an old concept but the U.S. still has a long way to go in order to fix the problem and break the glass ceiling and the “good ole boy” mindset that causes it. #amwriting #writing #blogging #womensissues



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