Sociology Index


Gender Inequality, Gender Socialization, Gender Roles,

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. The glass ceiling concept is sometimes extended to refer to obstacles hindering the advancement of minority women, as well as minority men.

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 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 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.

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. 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 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.