The Invisible Barrier

WITI News Staff

May 01, 2023

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The glass ceiling is a term that describes an invisible barrier that prevents women and other marginalized groups from reaching higher levels of professional success, especially on the corporate ladder. The term was first used in 1978 by a writer and consultant named Marilyn Loden1, who spoke about the hidden obstacles that women faced in their careers. The term later became popularized by a 1986 Wall Street Journal article that discussed the corporate hierarchy and how women seemed to be stuck at lower levels of management.

The glass ceiling is not a formal or explicit policy, but rather a result of unwritten norms and implicit biases that favor men over women and minorities in positions of authority and influence. Some of the factors that contribute to the glass ceiling are: gender stereotypes, lack of mentorship and sponsorship, discrimination and harassment, work-life balance issues, and organizational culture and practices2. These factors can limit the opportunities, visibility, recognition, and compensation of women and minorities in the workplace.
The glass ceiling has negative consequences for both individuals and organizations.

For individuals, it can lead to frustration, stress, lower self-esteem, lower motivation, and reduced career satisfaction. It can also limit their potential to contribute to society and the economy. For organizations, it can lead to loss of talent, lower diversity, innovation, productivity, and lower profitability. It can also damage their reputation and social responsibility.

To break through the glass ceiling, both individuals and organizations need to take action. Individuals can seek mentors and sponsors, who can provide guidance, feedback, support, and advocacy. They can also network with peers and allies, who can offer information, advice, referrals, and opportunities. They can also develop their skills and competencies, such as leadership, communication, negotiation, and problem-solving. They can also challenge stereotypes and biases, by speaking up, showcasing their achievements, and supporting others.

Organizations can implement policies and practices that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in hiring, promotion, compensation, and evaluation. They can also provide training and education to raise awareness and reduce prejudice among employees and managers. They can also create a culture of respect and accountability, where discrimination and harassment are not tolerated and where diversity is valued and celebrated. They can also monitor and measure their progress and outcomes in terms of gender and racial representation at all levels of the organization.

The glass ceiling is a complex and persistent problem that affects many people in different ways. By understanding its causes and effects, we can work together to overcome it and create a more fair and inclusive society.
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