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Glass Ceiling

By | April 2013
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GLASS CEILING
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Latina executive. Although the 20th century saw many improvements for women and minorities in the business world, advocates for equal rights claim that there is still a long way to go. Many upwardly mobile women and men of color face unseen and unspoken barriers as they advance to the upper reaches of management. Source: iStockphoto.

The concept of the glass ceiling originated during the middle 1980s to describe the invisible and artificial barriers that have kept women from promotion to upper management and other higher leadership positions in the business world. Most who support the idea that a glass ceiling exists contend that the disadvantages worsen the higher on the corporate ladder women ascend. The barriers are hierarchical in nature and are seemingly impenetrable. This definition originally addressed the difficulties of women to advance but soon evolved to include both male and female racial/ethnic minorities. Women and minorities are significantly represented within the workforce as a whole and even at middle levels of management, but their numbers in senior executive positions remain quite small. Although the 20th century saw many improvements for women and minorities in the business world, advocates for equal rights claim that despite increasing numbers of women and minorities in top leadership roles in business, there is still a long way to go. There is a belief that both women and minorities continue to face barriers in advancement to positions of leadership in corporations in spite of their much higher overall representation in certain fields and industries. This entry looks at the concept and its social manifestations.

History of a Concept

The phrase glass ceiling was first used in 1984 in an Adweek profile of Gay Bryant, who at the time was the editor of Working Woman magazine. In that profile, she was quoted as saying, “Women have reached a certain point—I call it the glass ceiling … in the top of middle management...
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