glass ceiling

(noun) An artificial, unseen, and often unacknowledged discriminatory barrier that prevents otherwise qualified people such as women and minorities from rising to positions of leadership and power, particularly within a corporation.

Audio Pronunciation: (glass ceil·ing)

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Usage Notes:

  • Plural: glass ceilings
  • The term is typically attributed to Gay Bryant who used it in interviews and in the book The Working Woman Report: Succeeding in Business in the 1980s (1984). However, who and when the phrase was coined is debated.
  • Jane Hyun coined the term bamboo ceiling to describe the experiences of dealing with the glass ceiling for Asians in Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians (2005).
  • The term glass cliff coined by Alex Haslam and Michelle Ryan, describes the precarious leadership positions women are often given when they break through the glass ceiling, such as managing failing departments or dealing with limited resources.
  • The glass escalator coined by Christine Williams in “The Glass Escalator: Hidden Advantages for Men in the “Female” Professions,” refers to the rampant rise of some employees over others. Originally this term was used in reference to men moving up the hierarchy over women in “female professions” or pink collar jobs but has grown to include aspects of race and ethnicity.
  • The stained-glass ceiling refers to limiting women’s access to positions of authority and power within various religious institutions and systems.

Related Quotations:

  • “The glass ceiling operates so that although all applicants may be welcomed by the firm at entry levels, when it comes to powerful managerial and executive positions, there are limits, generally unstated, on the number of women and nonwhites welcomed or even tolerated. Women may be doing better at getting top management positions than minorities, but they still lag well behind men” (McNamee and Miller 2013:196).

Additional Information:

Related Terms:

 


References

McNamee, Stephen J., and Robert K. Miller. 2013. The Meritocracy Myth. 3rd. ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

 

Works Consulted

Abercrombie, Nicholas, Stephen Hill, and Bryan Turner. 2006. The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. 5th ed. London: Penguin.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 5th ed. 2011. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Andersen, Margaret L., and Howard Francis Taylor. 2011. Sociology: The Essentials. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Bruce, Steve, and Steven Yearley. 2006. The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Brym, Robert J., and John Lie. 2007. Sociology: Your Compass for a New World. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Ferrante, Joan. 2011. Seeing Sociology: An Introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Henslin, James M. 2012. Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2011. Sociology: The Core. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Macionis, John. 2012. Sociology. 14th ed. Boston: Pearson.

Macmillan. (N.d.) Macmillan Dictionary. (https://www.macmillandictionary.com/).

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Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Princeton University. 2010. WordNet. (https://wordnet.princeton.edu/).

Random House Webster’s College Dictionary. 1997. New York: Random House.

Schaefer, Richard. 2013. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. 2005. A Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (http://en.wiktionary.org).

 

How to Cite the Definition of Glass Ceiling

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “glass ceiling.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved December 18, 2018 (https://sociologydictionary.org/glass-ceiling/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

glass ceiling. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/glass-ceiling/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “glass ceiling.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed December 18, 2018. https://sociologydictionary.org/glass-ceiling/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“glass ceiling.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 18 Dec. 2018. <https://sociologydictionary.org/glass-ceiling/>.