Glass ceiling

A glass ceiling is a metaphor usually applied to women, used to represent an invisible barrier that prevents a given demographic from rising beyond a certain level in a hierarchy.[1] No matter how invisible the glass ceiling is expressed, it is actually a difficult obstacle to overcome.[2] The metaphor was first used by feminists in reference to barriers in the careers of high-achieving women.[3][4] It was coined by Marilyn Loden during a speech in 1978.[5][6][7][8]

A chart illustrating the differences in earnings between men and women of the same educational level (USA 2006) [needs update]

In the United States, the concept is sometimes extended to refer to racial inequality in the United States.[3][9] Minority women in white-majority countries often find the most difficulty in "breaking the glass ceiling" because they lie at the intersection of two historically marginalized groups: women and people of color.[10] East Asian and East Asian American news outlets have coined the term "bamboo ceiling" to refer to the obstacles that all East Asian Americans face in advancing their careers.[11][12] Similarly, a multitude of barriers that refugees and asylum seekers face in their search for meaningful employment is referred to as canvas ceiling.[13]

Within the same concepts of the other terms surrounding the workplace, there are similar terms for restrictions and barriers concerning women and their roles within organizations and how they coincide with their maternal responsibilities. These "Invisible Barriers" function as metaphors to describe the extra circumstances that women go through, usually when they try to advance within areas of their careers and often while they try to advance within their lives outside their work spaces.[14]

"A glass ceiling" represents a blockade that prohibits women from advancing toward the top of a hierarchical corporation. These women are prevented from getting promoted, especially to the executive rankings within their corporation. In the last twenty years, the women who have become more involved and pertinent in industries and organizations have rarely been in the executive ranks.

The corresponding "glass floor" which tends to exempt women from many of the unpleasant aspects of a hierarchy's lower levels is not generally considered a problem; in fact, attempts to raise awareness of that discriminatory inequality are frequently quashed.


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This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Glass ceiling, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.