GLASS CEILING HYPOTHESIS
Glass Ceiling Hypothesis
In the analysis of women in the
work place, Glass Ceiling Hypothesis is useful for describing the invisible barriers that
block the promotion of women. Glass Ceiling refers to barriers that are not explicit, but
are inherent in the social organization and social
relationships of the workplace. Glass Ceiling Hypothesis is also about class oppression.
Because of glass ceiling women may
find their corporate careers obstructed because they are excluded from the recreational
and social associations created by male fellow workers and lack the social contacts that
are important in gaining status and recognition.
While, as a metaphor, the
glass ceiling conveys a strong connotation . . . when the glass ceiling is actually
measured by the mobility of individuals between different hierarchical levels, one
recognizes that it has different levels of severity, or closedness, and thus the analyst
can investigate the phenomenon as a matter of degree rather than as a dichotomy.
The salience of the 'glass
ceiling' metaphor in public discussions of gender
inequality, has given rise to a substantial body of quantitative research systematically exploring the
extent and variations in the glass ceiling. The glass ceiling hypothesis is not a special
hypothesis for any particular country, but a general hypothesis about the patterns of
gender discrimination in organizational hierarchies.
The glass ceiling hypothesis could
change with time because the labor force participation rates of women have been increasing
rapidly in recent years and the proportion of all jobs that are located within managerial hierarchy has also been increasing.
Glass Ceiling discrimination in promotions is not
generally present across all levels of hierarchy but is more intense at higher levels. It
has been established with empirical evidence that the
relative rates of women being promoted to higher levels compared to men declines with the
level of the hierarchy.
Occupational and organizational sex segregation, even
self-segregation, may reflect various forms of gender discrimination in the society at
large, but the mechanisms involved are different from those identified in the glass
Some of the apparent gender gap in authority would be the
result of the distribution of women into work settings with fewer managerial opportunities
rather than any gender-specific obstacles to their acquiring managerial positions within
The glass ceiling effect at the middle level of managerial hierarchies could be higher
than at higher levels. Removing glass ceiling obstacles to getting into middle hierarchy
would appear to be a more pressing task than removing obstacles to promotions in the upper
reaches of authority structures.
Much less political energy has been devoted to ending gendered discrimination in
employment practices, which may help explain both a larger overall gender gap in authority
and the presence of glass ceiling effects within hierarchies.
People may voluntarily exit organizations and leave the hierarchy before reaching the
highest level they could have attained if they had stayed in their jobs. If women
voluntarily leave in this way at higher rates then men, then the distribution of men and
women across levels may simulate a glass ceiling where none exists.
Distributional patterns that may look like a glass ceiling could simply be by-products of
past discrimination and past lower levels of womens labor force participation rather
than current practices.
Men and women at a given level of an authority hierarchy may have different unmeasured
qualities may confound any inferences drawn directly from differential promotion rates.
These quality differences could work either to make it seem that a glass ceiling is
present when one does not really exist or to mask the presence of a glass ceiling.
Gender differences in unmeasured personal attributes, however, could also mask a glass
ceiling. Suppose the promotion rate advantage of men relative to women is constant across
levels of the hierarchy.
THE GLASS CEILING HYPOTHESIS - A Comparative
Study of the United States, Sweden, and Australia
JANEEN BAXTER, University of Tasmania, ERIK OLIN WRIGHT, University of
Abstract: The general-case glass ceiling hypothesis states that not only is it more
difficult for women than for men to be promoted up levels of authority hierarchies within
workplaces but also that the obstacles women face relative to men become greater as they
move up the hierarchy. Gender-based discrimination in promotions is not simply present
across levels of hierarchy but is more intense at higher levels. Empirically, this implies
that the relative rates of women being promoted to higher levels compared to men should
decline with the level of the hierarchy. This article explores this hypothesis with data
from three countries: the United States, Australia, and Sweden. The basic conclusion is
that while there is strong evidence for a general gender gap in authority, the odds of
women having authority are less than those of men, there is no evidence for systematic
glass ceiling effects in the United States and only weak evidence for such effects in the
other two countries.
Theory and evidence on the glass ceiling effect
using matched worker-firm data
Abstract: In this paper, we investigate the glass ceiling hypothesis according to which
there exists larger gender wage gaps at the upper tail of the wage distribution. We
demonstrate that in some circumstances, more qualified women may be offered lower wages
than men at the equilibrium. This occurs for instance in a competitive model of wage
determination where employers face gender-specific probabilities concerning the stability
of their employees in their firms. Then, we focus on the relevance and the magnitude of
the glass ceiling effect in France using a representative matched worker-firm data set in
1992 of about 130,000 employees and 14,000 employers. We estimate quantile regressions and
use a principal component analysis to summarize information specific to the firms. Our
different results show that accounting for firm-related characteristics, in particular
firm-specific wage policies, reduces the gender earnings gap at the top of the
distribution, but the latter still remains much higher at the top than at the bottom.