Glass Ceiling

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Morgan Smith


The purpose of this study is to examine the perceptions of minority women regarding the "glass ceiling" as a barrier to career advancement in corporate America.


What is the glass ceiling? The glass ceiling refers to a barrier in corporate America that prevents women, especially of minorities from advancing within the hierarchy of an organization. The glass ceiling is not only present in corporate America but almost every industry. There are variations of the term which include but are not limited to the following: the bamboo ceiling, glass elevator, and glass cliff. Last year, the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission released a report stating that only 7%-9% of senior managers at Fortune 1000 firms are women.

This research paper, Breaking the Glass, is about the metaphorical barrier that affects African American, Asian and Latino women. The three previously stated ethnic groups will be discussed in this paper because they are the largest following Caucasian Americans. The purpose of this paper is not just to inform the reader of the glass ceiling, but how this information can be used to overcome obstacles in corporate America.


The terms "housewife" and "homemaker" are two words that are dying out. Many women in today's society have several roles: mother, wife, and employee. Women are acquiring high-level positions in corporate America; it's a journey that is long, and hard; especially for women of color because of a barrier, commonly referred to as the "glass ceiling." When women acknowledge this obstacle, it's that much easier to overcome it with motivation and persistence.

The term "glass ceiling" was popularized in a 1986 Wall Street Journal article describing the invisible barriers that women confront as they approach the top of the corporate hierarchy (Dunn, 1997). The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, a 21-member bipartisan body appointed by President Bush and congressional leaders, was created by the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Its mandate was to identify the glass ceiling barriers that have blocked the advancement of minorities and women as well as successful practices and policies that have led to the advancement of minority men and all women into decision-making positions in the private sector (Dunn).

According to a 2005 U.S. Census, women represent almost � of the workforce. The percentage of women in management, professional and related occupations was 50.6. Next, women held 16.4% of top-level management positions, which was a slight increase from 15.7% in 2002 (Joyce, 2006). A measly 2.1% of women managers were women of color (Joyce). Women are making great efforts to acquire higher positions in the business sector. Caucasian women have attained a critical mass in management, especially in service industries, whereas minority women have not. However, the presentation of women in senior and executive management is relatively small compared to women's representation of other levels. Furthermore, women tend to be clustered in staff positions in companies that do not typically lead to senior leadership roles in organizations.

Women of color experience many barriers that Caucasian women experience in corporations, but the impact of these barriers on minority women is more profound. Whereas Caucasian women have attained a critical mass in some organizations or functional areas within companies, women of color have not. Minority women frequently find themselves competing with minority men for a limited number of token positions available to people of color in their organization (Burlew, 1992). Women of color frequently have few or even no role models or female mentors at senior levels in their company. In general, African American, Asian, and Latinos resist the use of the term "minority", which they feel implies inferiority.

African Americans and corporate America

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