Glass Ceiling

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What is the “glass ceiling”? 

The glass ceiling metaphorically refers to the “invisible barrier” that prevents women and minorities from achieving executive and leadership positions in the workplace. It represents the obstacles that hinder them from attaining the executive career advancement that men and non-minority members otherwise achieve in the corporate world. 

When did the glass ceiling concept come about? 

The concept of the glass ceiling was popularized decades ago in the 1980s. While the concept originally referred to the invisible barrier faced by women, the meaning has been expanded in recent years to include issues concerning racial and ethnic minorities. According to the glass ceiling concept, women and minorities are at a disadvantage when it comes to advancing to positions that were considered the decision-makers in an organization. 

Is the glass ceiling still a pressing issue today? 

Yes. Different countries have different situations when it comes to women and minorities in the workplace. In the United States, organizations have taken initiatives in taking measures to increase diversity. Some companies even hire individuals whose main task is to track and ensure the improvement of women and minorities have improved representation in certain management-level posts. 

A study by McKinsey observed that there have been improvements in the representation of women at the C-suite level. From 17% in 2015, the rate increased to 21% in 2019. However, women only held 29.9% of chief executive roles in the U.S. in 2020 as per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to McKinsey, “for every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, only 72 women are promoted and hired.”

What is the role of HR in decreasing the effects of the glass ceiling? 

HR is integral in promoting diversity in the workplace. Having a diverse workforce and intentional policies to promote women and minorities will help shatter glass ceiling. Having a healthy dialogue with business leaders and sharing the importance of diversity is the first step. Monitoring the organization’s relevant demographic data and taking this to the leadership team is also important. Lastly, a more inclusive hiring and recruitment process and compliance to all U.SEqual Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are essential. 


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