For the Uninitiated: The Glass Ceiling


The glass ceiling is a political term used to describe the unseen barrier keeping women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder.

The metaphor was initially applied by feminists to describe the barriers to securing the most powerful, prestigious, and best paid jobs that are available to high achieving and ambitious women.  In America the concept is sometimes extended to refer to unseen barriers hindering the advancement of minority men, as well as women.

Variations of the metaphor extend the general theme to include:

The Stained-glass ceiling which is used to highlight difficulties for women seeking to gain leadership roles in religious institutions.

The Celluloid ceiling which refers to women being statistically under-represented in creative positions in Hollywood.

The Glass cliff which describes the phenomenon of women executives in the corporate world being likelier than men to be put in leadership roles during periods of crisis or downturn, when the chance of failure is highest.

And at the lower end of the pyramid…


The Glass cellar which refers to that lowest tier of hazardous or poorly paid jobs (such as firefighters, truckers, fishermen, coal miners and construction workers) that are mostly held by men.  In America out of the 25 “worst” professions as determined by the Jobs Rated Almanac, 24 have a workforce that is 85% or more male.

The glass cellar covers areas of the workforce that women don’t want to be part of, such as digging, road construction, garbage dumping, etc. as opposed to glass ceiling jobs such as, being CEO, chairman, congressman, president, and all that good stuff.  Basically men dominate both extremes of the spectrum. Urban Dictionary.


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