What is Glass Ceiling? Meaning, Characteristics, Effects and Ways to combat it

A glass ceiling is a term that expresses a barrier that cannot be seen which does not allow a particular demographic to rise above a level in the hierarchy. This usually affects minorities.

The term was first used by feminists to describe the barriers in the careers of successful women. Women from racial minority countries find it hard to “break the glass ceiling” in white-majority countries.

This is because their demographic is the intersection of two groups that have been marginalized throughout history: people of color and women.

What is a Glass Ceiling?

Glass Ceiling

“A glass ceiling” is a barrier that averts women from moving to the apex of a hierarchy. In their organization, these women are not given promotions. They are refrained from moving up the executive rankings.

In the previous two decades, the women who have become more involved and pertinent in industries and organizations have rarely been in the executive ranks. Women in most organizations form less than five percent of the board of directors and C-suite leaders.

Characteristics that indicate a Glass Ceiling Exists

A racial or gender gap that is wider at an outcome’s top levels than its bottom ones.”

“A gender or racial gap that is unexplainable by the other employee qualities related to the job.”

“A racial or gender gap that grows wider over a career. ”

Origin of the term Glass Ceiling

Origin of the term Glass Ceiling

Marilyn Loden had first used the phrase Glass ceiling in her 1978 speech.

According to the April 3, 2015 edition of Wall Street Journal, simultaneously and entirely separately from Loden, the phrase glass ceiling was used in the spring of 1978. It was coined by Katherine Lawrence and Marianne Schriber at Hewlett-Packard.

The ceiling described promotion discrimination, although there was no discrimination mentioned in the official papers. However, in reality, qualified women were denied promotions.

Lawrence spoke about this in the yearly Conference of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press while engaging with the National Press.

Glass Ceiling – Related Concepts

1. Glass Escalator

The term was invented in 1992 by Christine L. Williams. It describes men who make use of female-dominated fields and climb to higher positions.

There has also been the claim that men enter female-dominated industries and get better family benefits, financial security, and job stability.

2. Concrete Ceiling

The glass ceiling talks about women generally. Women of color have it even harder, which is known as the “concrete ceiling.”

The phrase was invented in 2016 by Jasmine Babers. It refers to much more challenging obstacles women of color have to cross to achieve professional success.

3. Bamboo Ceiling

The term refers to barriers faced by many Asian Americans in the professional arena, such as stereotypes and racism.

The term “bamboo ceiling” was coined in 2005 by Jane Hyun.

4. Canvas Ceiling

A series of barriers that cannot be seen which prevent refugees’ attempts to get work is called the “canvas ceiling”.

Increasing levels of displacement and the need to integrate refugees into the workforce pose new challenges to organizations and societies.

Ways to Combat the Glass Ceiling

1. Understand Anti-Discrimination Laws

  • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission forms laws that criminalize discrimination by people and firms against:
  • A person because of their sex, national origin, religion, color, or race. This includes sexual orientation and other gender identities.
  • A female going through a medical condition that has to do with childbirth or pregnancy.

2. Sexual Harassment policies and Anti-Discrimination practices

  • Most companies claim that they provide equal opportunities while hiring. They set the details out with a statement of equal opportunity employer policy.
  • These are published in the employee handbook, job descriptions, and career page.
  • There are many kinds of such statements. One can research and figure out the appropriate policies and language representing the values, mission, and firm.

3. Make employees go through Stereotype and Bias training

  • One can hire a diversity or bias expert.
  • They can help the employees to notice unconscious biases and get the team together on the same page.
  • It can also get people to start conversations, which they were initially unsure or unwilling to start.

4. Set goals for diversity promoting and hiring

  • To actuate these ideas, one has to set goals for diversity promoting and hiring.
  • One should analyze how diverse one’s business is. They can figure out which demographics are not present in the workplace.
  • This can be noted by seniority levels, teams, and departments to create goals according to reality.

5. Manage Blind Screenings

  • One has to curtail biases that are not conscious. So, for promotions and employment, the screening and application process can be blind.
  • These screenings leave out the candidate data. This includes experiences (not related to the role), interests, and their name. All these might assist someone in figuring out ethnicity, gender, or race.

6. Discuss the Glass Ceiling

  • After understanding the concept of the glass ceiling, one should talk to others.
  • They should educate about the glass ceiling, how it works and how to smash it.
  • Understanding is key to breaking down these barriers, and it cannot be achieved alone.

Effects of Glass Ceiling on Women and Minorities

  1. Irritability
  2. Anger
  3. Sadness
  4. Sleep problems
  5. Headaches

Glass Ceiling – The Economist’s Glass-Ceiling Index

Glass Ceiling – The Economist’s Glass-Ceiling Index

Each year The Economist looks at key metrics to compile a ranking of workplace gender equality in OECD countries. In 2019, Iceland nabbed the top spot, closely followed by its Nordic peers.

These countries consistently excel on measures such as pay parity, child-care policies, and the proportion of women on corporate boards.

Glass Ceiling Example

Glass Ceiling Example – Kamala Harris

Glass Ceiling Example – Kamala Harris

On Jan 20, 2021 – Kamala Harris made history by becoming the first woman and first black woman to hold the United States’ 2nd-highest office. A stunning portrait of Harris is honoring the vice president’s accomplishments by referencing the metaphorical glass ceiling she broke.

Swiss artist Simon Berger created the 6- by 6-foot, 350-pound artwork by strategically hammering cracks into a giant sheet of glass.

Glass Ceiling Example – Roz Brewer

Glass Ceiling Example – Roz Brewer

US drugstore giant Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) on January 27, 2021, named Starbucks executive Roz Brewer as its new CEO — an appointment that US media said would make her the only Black woman leading a Fortune 500 company.

Glass Ceiling Example – Bhawna Kanth

Glass Ceiling Example – Bhawna Kanth

Flight Lieutenant Bhawna Kanth became the first female fighter jet pilot to be part of the Indian Air Force’s tableau during the Republic Day parade.

Glass Ceiling Example – Air India’s All-Women Cockpit Crew

Glass Ceiling Example – Air India's All-Women Cockpit Crew

An all-women cockpit crew set out on a historic journey in January 2021, operating Air India’s inaugural San Francisco – Bengaluru flight, going over the North Pole and taking the Atlantic route to reach the Karnataka capital at the other end of the world.