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The “glass ceiling” holds women back in the workplace

On Behalf of | Oct 7, 2023 | Employee Discrimination

Women in Illinois and around the country earn more advanced degrees than men, but they rarely climb to the top of the corporate ladder. Figures from the U.S. Department of Labor reveal that less than 30% of the nation’s chief executives are women, and only 8.2% of Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO according to a report released in 2021 by the Women Business Collaborative. In 1978, the American writer and diversity advocate Marilyn Loden coined the term “glass ceiling” to describe the challenges female executives face in the corporate world.

The glass ceiling

Loden noticed that women have little trouble finding entry-level positions in large corporations, but they are rarely promoted to senior positions even when they have the necessary qualifications and experience. The term ”glass ceiling” refers to the organizational and cultural barriers that hold them back. In 1991, the U.S. Department of Labor established the Glass Ceiling Commission to study the phenomenon and how it affects women and minorities.

Unconscious bias

Findings released by the Glass Ceiling Commission in 1995 revealed that most senior executives in the United States are white men. Experts believe that the dearth of senior female executives is the result of unconscious bias rather than employment discrimination. They say that male executives who decide promotions tend to recognize the achievements of other men. When women are being considered for promotion, they are often seen as being timid and risk averse.

Promoting diversity

The “glass ceiling” is harmful to organizations as well as female executives because it robs them of diversity. To eliminate unconscious bias from the hiring and promotion process, employers should modify their procedures to encourage transparency. They should also provide senior executives with training that addresses unconscious bias and the damage that it can do to an organization.