Magazine article Management Review

Dismantling the Glass Ceiling

Magazine article Management Review

Dismantling the Glass Ceiling

Article excerpt

In a keynote speech before New York City's labor/management I community, Rosalie Gaull Silberman, vice chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, defined the term "glass ceiling" as an invisible, inpenetrable barrier to advancement for women and minorities." Moreover, in their book, Breaking the Glass Ceiling, Ann Morrison and her colleagues found, in their opinion, a perfect metaphor to capture this predicament: Women and minorities are climbing the corporate ladder, but at some point seem to reach an invisible barrier, a glass ceiling separating them from the top management positions.

Where the lack of advancement of opportunities are the result of intentional discrimination on the part of corporations, those affected women and minorities have claims against their employer. The difficulty here is that the barriers to advancement are nebulous and frequently not susceptible of proof Hence, the term glass ceiling arose.

The government is sensitive to the difficulties posed by this phenomenon and has made efforts to increase awareness of the glass ceiling in corporate, America. Both Congress and the U.S. Department of Labor recently demonstrated interest in dismantling this barrier.

The Labor Department commenced a comprehensive program in the fall of 1989 to study and eradicate the glass ceiling phenomenon. In August 1991, the Labor Department released a report on its progress. The program, called "Glass Ceiling Initiative," included several components. The Labor Department met with various organizations to educate personnel about the phenomenon, conducted "pilot reviews" of nine companies, encouraged voluntary action by corporations to remove artificial barriers, and acknowledged company voluntary efforts through public recognition and awards.

The pilot reviews were a central feature of the initiative. The companies were selected on the basis of objective criteria, using OFCCP's (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program) Equal Employment Data System.

Labor Secretary Lynn Martin has stated that a key finding from initial reviews is that the glass ceiling existed at a much lower level than anticipated. That is, women and minorities are held back not only from top executive positions, but perhaps from lower level directorships and other management positions as well.

The reviews of the nine companies selected identified several characteristics common to all of those companies. First, and as stated above, there was a level beyond which few minorities and women had been advanced. Second, although the companies had a system for identifying key management personnel, there were no specific policies for ensuring that all qualified employees, including women and minorities, were provided opportunities to develop their careers further or to gain requisite credentials. …

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