Sociology Index

One Lakh Kindle E-Books


Glass Ceiling Hypothesis is useful for describing the invisible barriers that block the promotion of women. Glass Ceiling Hypothesis is describes class oppression. Glass Ceiling refers to barriers that are not explicit, but are inherent in the social organization and social relationships of the workplace.

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.

The glass ceiling hypothesis and concept is sometimes extended to refer to obstacles hindering the advancement of minority women, as well as minority men. Gender Roles are social roles ascribed to individuals on the basis of their sex. 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 ceiling hypothesis.

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 their workplaces.

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 than 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 women’s labor force participation rather than current practices. 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 could also mask a glass ceiling. Suppose the promotion rate advantage of men relative to women is constant across levels of the hierarchy.

“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.” Yamagata.


Madam CJ Walker was an entrepreneur who, in the early 1900s, became the first woman to be a self-made millionaire in the US. Not only that, she somehow managed to do this as a black woman at a time when being black hurt your social status. Born to a pair of former slaves. She was born free but was orphaned by age seven, married by 14 and widowed by 20. Walker wouldn't let any of that keep her from success. She started a business selling cosmetics for African-American women, and her success led to her millionaire status.

Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for her outstanding 2008 film about the Iraq War, "The Hurt Locker." The film also took home the award for Best Picture, in addition to four other Oscars.

First Female Fortune 500 CEO and the first woman to break the glass ceiling in the corporate world, Katharine Graham took the reins of the Washington Post Co. in 1963, following the suicide of her husband Philip. The publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and the uncovering of the Watergate scandal led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974. In 1999, Carly Fiorina became the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, the first woman to do so at a Fortune 100 company.

On April 17, 1964, Geraldine Mock completed her solo flight around the world, becoming the first woman to break the glass ceiling. After 29 days, 11 hours, 59 minutes and 23,103 miles, the "flying housewife" landed in Port Columbus Airport in Ohio.

Muriel Siebert was the First Female Member of the New York Stock Exchange. She became the first woman to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1967, as well as the first to run an NYSE member firm, Muriel Siebert & Co.

Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for president in 1872, long before women could even vote. Not only did she run, she actually received the Equal Rights Party's nomination on a platform of equal rights for women as well as women's suffrage. Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin were First Female Stockbrokers.

A little over 40 years ago on May 16, 1975, a then 35-year-old Japanese woman named Junko Tabei reached the peak of Mount Everest with assistance from a Sherpa guide, Ang Tshering. On May 13, 1995, British mountaineer Alison Hargreaves became the first woman to climb Everest unaided. Incredibly, that meant no bottled oxygen and no help from Sherpas.

Frances Perkins became the first woman to serve in a US Cabinet. In her role, she helped push New Deal programs like Social Security, the primary program to fund elderly and retired people. She spent years working in public service before joining Franklin Delano Roosevelt's cabinet from 1933-1945, which also made her the longest serving US Secretary of Labor in US history.

Aloha Wanderwell spent years driving a Ford Model T across 43 countries. She was dubbed by newspapers at the time as the “World's Most Widely Traveled Girl,” “The Amelia Earhart of the Automobile” and “The First Woman to Drive Around the World in an Automobile.”

Nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman to sit on the US Supreme Court. In 1950, she graduated from Stanford University, where would also attend law school afterward. According to, limited opportunities for female lawyers at the time led O'Connor to take a job in order to break the glass ceiling, working for the county attorney of California's San Mateo region.

On June 16, 1963, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. She spent nearly three days in orbit before returning to Earth a hero. For her accomplishment, she received the Order of Lenin, Soviet Union's two highest possible decorations and Hero of the Soviet Union awards, breaking the glass ceiling.

The first woman to be elected to Congress, Jeannette Rankin, inspired by the woman's suffrage movement, sought to help it from the inside. After years of trying to amend state constitutions to permit women to vote, in 1916, Rankin decided to run for one of Montana's seats in the US House of Representatives.

Charlotte Cooper attended the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, the first Olympics where women were allowed to participate. In Paris, she won in tennis singles and mixed doubles, making her the first individual woman Olympic champion.

Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 with her husband and colleague, Pierre Curie, for their work with radioactivity, becoming the first woman Nobel laureate. Eight years later, though her husband had died, Curie won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery and production of radium and polonium. When she won the second prize, she became the first woman to win two prizes as well as the first woman to win prizes in two different fields. She truely broke the glass ceiling.

THE GLASS CEILING HYPOTHESIS - A Comparative Study of the United States, Sweden, and Australia.
The glass ceiling hypothesis states that it not only more difficult for women than for men to be promoted up levels of authority hierarchies within workplaces. According to glass ceiling hypothesis, the obstacles women face relative to men become greater as they move up the hierarchy. This article explores glass ceiling hypothesis with data from the United States, Australia, and Sweden.

Theory and evidence on the glass ceiling effect using matched worker-firm data
Abstract: We investigate the glass ceiling hypothesis according to which there exists larger gender wage gaps at the upper tail of the wage distribution. Then, we focus on the relevance of the glass ceiling hypothesis in France using a representative matched worker-firm data set in 1992 of about 130,000 employees and 14,000 employers.

Books on Glass Ceiling Hypothesis 

Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Can Women Reach the Top of Americas Largest Corporations? - by Ann M. Morrison, Randall P. White, Ellen Van Velsor

Glass Walls and Glass Ceilings : Women's Representation in State and Municipal Bureaucracies - by Margaret F. Reid, Brinck Kerr, Will Miller

Negotiating the Glass Ceiling: Careers of Senior Women in the Academic World - by Miriam David, Diana Woodward (Editors)

Dancing on the Glass Ceiling : Tap into Your True Strengths, Activate Your Vision, and Get What You Really Want out of Your Career - by Candy Deemer, Nancy Fredericks.