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Glass Ceiling Definition: How to break it anywhere?

What is "the glass ceiling" or the Glass Ceiling Effect?

Introduction

Humanity is composed of a mixture of different people who have their own specificities and personalities. However, that does not mean that we have to be divided according to our demographic and category. However, equality is our natural rights, and we should do our best to remove the barriers.

In this world, we have to know how to live with each other because honestly, we are all humans. We all have the right to have access to different opportunities that can improve our lives forever. But something invisible keeps on ruining great opportunities for most people: the glass ceiling.

What is the Glass Ceiling?

Metaphorically, the Glass Ceiling is the invisible line or barrier that separates one demographic from the other. There is one superior group and another inferior group. So instead of having equal chances of succeeding, the superior group tends to have a higher success rate.

Feminists originally used the term glass ceiling. Glass ceiling applies to all women who have to compromise their salaries and work position because they are women. They are judged solely based on their gender and not on their abilities and capacities to be productive and to excel at their jobs.

Glass ceiling cannot be seen, but it is felt and dealt with by women, other races, and people with disabilities. It keeps minorities from reaching their full potential within the corporate world, no matter how credible and qualified they may be.


The Different Examples of Glass Ceiling

Societal Barriers

The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission identified two major barriers in the society that influence an increase in glass ceiling. First is the supply barrier which is associated with opportunities and achievements. The second one is the difference barrier that is characterized by stereotypes, bias, prejudice, and judgment based on ethnicity and gender.

Supply Barrier

Mostly, people with higher credentials and achievements are more susceptible to better opportunities both professionally and personally. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, but it is still important to give opportunities to those who need it more.

Difference Barrier

This type of societal barrier intentionally judge people for their background – culturally, ethnically, and gender-ly. People tend to avoid giving opportunities to those who are different from them.

For example, a company composed of white people with only a few people of color will give better opportunities to the superior group of people. This means that those who are not white tend to get the leftover opportunities – the ones that have already been rejected or picked on by the whites.

This example of glass ceiling has a lot of subtypes, so it is best to be explained as a whole. Basically, this barrier manifests the unfair and unequal distribution of attention and care among the employees within a company.

A classic example is when there is recruitment for a certain position where there are 2 applicants. One is an American man who lacks the required professional experience; the second is a person of color who also lacks the required professional experience. Guess who the HR will choose?

Yes, they will most probably choose the white guy when both applicants have the same credentials and the same lack of requirement. White supremacy is the result of glass ceiling, so it is quite prevalent in the workplace.

But we all know that there should be cultural diversity within the company, right? But glass ceiling makes this hard to achieve because people are taught that the white race is superior and that other races are inferior to the whites.

Different Types of Glass Ceiling

Glass ceiling encompasses a wide range of people, so let us find out the most common types of glass ceilings.

Gender Bias Glass Ceiling

As mentioned above, the term glass ceiling was popularized by feminists, who slowly realized that the system has the tendency to base their decisions on a person’s gender – being completely gender bias.

Women often find themselves working the same amount as men, but they are severely underpaid. In contrast, others can’t even get themselves inside a company because HR prefers men over women applicants.

Statistics show that…

  • Managers, no matter what gender, prefer to hire men over women.
  • The probability of women being hired is higher by 25% to 46% if the application is blindly conducted.
  • In a company with a 90% leadership and population of men, half of them already believe that 10% of women in their company are already enough and fair.
  • By 30%, men are more likely to be promoted to managerial roles in the company.
  • Only 23% of C-suites are composed of women.
  • Women grasp only 10% of leadership roles within the workplace.

Cultural Glass Ceiling

The workplace has to be filled with people from a different cultural background so that there are varied ideas and suggestions for the development of the company. It will be of great help if there are people with different opinions about how the company can become better, but what if a company is filled with people from the same cultural background?

There is no cultural diversity at all.

It is proven that most companies prefer to hire people who have the same cultural background as them because the adjustment will not be as drastic, but is it worth it?

Is it indispensable to take away a job opportunity from a person just because he or she belongs to different cultural background? No, because everyone, regardless of their upbringing, it is important to give equal opportunities to applicants.

A person’s beliefs and principles should not affect his or her chance of getting a job. I personally believe that HR has to focus on the applicant’s credentials instead of their beliefs because it will provide the company.

Racial Glass Ceiling

Racism is rampant within the business world, and it is important to correct this as soon as possible. This disregards people of color’s abilities and credentials because they are immediately shut down just because of their color and race.

However, racial discrimination within the workplace can be direct or indirect.

Direct Discrimination

For example:

Cristina, a person of Asian ethnicity, tried to apply as a receptionist at a hotel within an area predominantly filled with white people. Even though Cristina possesses all of the qualities and the requirements that are meant for the position, the hotel still did not accept her.

However, a white woman named Andrea was accepted immediately even though she has the same level of qualities and credentials that Cristina has.

Indirect Discrimination

For example:

A Spanish national named Arturo migrated to the United Kingdom and has been living there for 10 years. He applied for a job as an account manager, but one of the requirements is that the employee has to be a native English speaker. Now even though Arturo meets all other requirements and is completely fluent in the English language, his application is still rejected.

Take note that indirect discrimination takes place when an employer instils a policy that is totally against or a disadvantage for one or more race. For Arturo’s case, even though he is bilingual, his application is rejected because he is not a native English speaker.

In other words, the company only wanted to hire someone who was born and raised in the UK.



2 Major Causes for Glass Ceiling

Gender Roles

The main reason for the glass ceiling among women is the so-called gender roles where men are seen as strong, smart, and capable of doing hard corporate work. In comparison, women are seen as people who are meant to do household chores and to take care of the children.

Since birth, children are separated and categorized into two types: male and female. Ever since they were young, they already had t fit-into society’s standard of their respective genders. Later on, their gender roles will translate into their interests – academically and personally.

Men are viewed as competitive, confident, strong, and smart, while women are viewed as feminine, kind, nurturing, and polite. And in the workplace, women rarely get equal opportunities as men. Women’s salaries tend to be lower than men’s even though they have the same role in the company. Isn’t that unfair?

White Supremacy

Well, there is a messed up belief that the superior race is the whites. This is what white supremacy is all about. They believe that they are the best race – the lighter-skinned human race. Racism comes from this belief because they started to look down on other races dissimilar from theirs.

Although racism evidently calmed down ever since the beginning of time, it is still rampant and visible not only in the workplace but also in every aspect of life.

How To Break Glass Ceiling as a Professional

Understand What Glass Ceiling Is

First of all, it is important that you fully understand what the glass ceiling is all about. Hopefully, the information mentioned above would be enough to enlighten you about it. By understanding what the glass ceiling is all about, you will start to realize that it is wrong and that the system has to be fixed.

Educate People About the Glass Ceiling

By spreading information about it, more people will know and figure out the errors of the system. This is why you need to know about it so that you can educate other people about the topic.

Help other people understand that the glass ceiling is a real thing and that millions of people experience it everywhere. Make them see that opportunities are not equally distributed among the people in the workplace and that there are a lot of things that have to change.

Avoid Stereotyping People

Yes, it has been our habit to think of stereotypes about certain groups of people. But this is completely wrong!

For example, Asians are viewed as smart and great in Math, but not all Asians are good at it. Some are better in Science, Law, and Home Living. So do not generalize or stereotype a whole race or demographic just because it is common and other people do it.

How To Break Glass Ceiling as Human Resources Professional

Well, the only thing that you need to do as someone from the Human Resource department is to see applicants beyond their cultural, gender, and racial aspect—view applicants based on their qualifications, credentials, personalities, and accomplishments; just as you should.

People have to be hired based on their capability of doing the job, and not because of their race, gender, or cultural background. As someone responsible whether an applicant will get the job or not, it has to be your ethical responsibility never to judge an applicant based on their upbringing.

To become a great HR…

  • Focus on the applicant’s credentials
  • Communicate with employees and applicants  in a professional tone and do not disrespect any of them
  • Show interest in them and let them know whenever they’ve done something that is frowned upon
  • Help the employees in breaking the glass ceiling.

What is Glass Escalator?

We all know that women have been suffering because of glass ceiling. But there is a new occurrence – the glass escalator. But… what is it about?

Well, the glass escalator is the phenomenon where men transfer to a women-powered field of work such as nursing and teaching. While women worked hard to make it big in those fields, taking the glass stairs per se, men only took the glass escalator.

Men took the easier route because they only entered the field when women have already established it. Now because of this, women are slowly being shooed away from the industries that they once dominated.

What is Mommy Track?

A woman is given a chance to give birth to a new person – it truly is a blessing—however, the possibility of mommy tracking that affects a woman’s professional career.

Mommy tracking is the process of putting motherhood on top of anything else, including a woman’s job, personal self, and relationship with others. It is an arrangement agreed upon within the office where the woman will be given flexible working hours, giving her more time to prioritize her motherhood.

However, mommy tracking might delay the growth of a woman’s professional life. It provides fewer chances and opportunities that can advance her career achievement and advancement.

Glass Ceiling Reference

  • Glass Ceiling Its Causes and Types. www.pakistanihr.blogpost.com
  • Jenkins, J. 2016. White Supremacy. www.britannica.com
  • Grigsby, W. 2017. 10 Tips To Help You Become a Successful HR Manager. www.zippia.com
  • Khazan, O. 2014. The Mommy-Track Myth. www.theatlantic.com
  • Goudreau, J. 2012. A New Obstacle For Professional Women: The Glass Escalator. www.forbes.com

What is the Glass Ceiling?

The Glass Ceiling is the invisible line or barrier that separates one demographic from the other. There is one superior group and another inferior group.

Learn more at Diversity Social for social impact education

What is a Glass Escalator?

The glass escalator is the phenomenon where men transfer to a women-powered field of work such as nursing and teaching. While women worked hard to make it big in those fields, taking the glass stairs per se, men only took the glass escalator. Learn more at Diversity Social for social impact education

What is the Mommy Track?

Mommy tracking is the process of putting motherhood on top of anything else, including a woman’s job, personal self, and relationship with others. It is an arrangement agreed upon within the office where the woman will be given flexible working hours, giving her more time to prioritize her motherhood. Learn more at Diversity Social for social impact education

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About the author

Jess Man

Jessica is the Editor-in-Chief and Senior Diversity Advisor at Diversity Social. Jessica has over 10 years of working with and advising employers to be more diverse and create an inclusive working environment.
Jessica's experience spans private and non-profit sectors in multiple industries.
Jessica's expertise experience is beyond Diversity & Inclusion, she is also a certified professional IT recruiter in Data & Analytics, Database administration, Artificial Intelligence area.