The Glass Ceiling Revisted

March 17, 2019 0 Comments

Examining the Glass Ceiling

By Dr. Paul L. Gerhardt

In our current age of progress and innovation we have been hearing a term much more frequently of late – the much hyped “glass ceiling”. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the popular term is simply defined as an invisible barrier that prevents minorities (especially women) from successfully rising up the hierarchy and achieving higher level positions. Let's consider the implications of the glass ceiling and how workplaces are changing.

As stated in the definition, the brunt of the glass ceiling’s impact falls primarily on minorities and women. How did this matter arise you ask? Well, it all began before World War I, during the time when women were bound to stay at home and men went out seeking work. This pattern began to change during the war; since a large portion of men went out to protect their country, the women began to take charge. They looked for sources of income and employment, and when the war ended, many women were forced out of their jobs, but decided to keep them. Thus began a new workforce– women wanting equal wages at work, equal facilities and equal rights as their male counterparts.
Time usually has a way of changing perspectives. During that time working women were scorned and shunned in society for taking away jobs from “more deserving” males. Even though, we are no longer in the 1960’s, this concept, of women being not as able to work has been passed down through the generations. According to a survey by the Department of Labor, approximately 95%of senior managers in the Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 industrial organizations are male. Not too many of the top-leaders are people of color still to this day.

The statistic has risen for several reasons, the foremost of which is the completely antiquated mindset of some (not all) men. The mindset of some organizational leaders is that women may not able to give their whole concentration and focus on jobs due to pregnancy and child rearing – apparently, a part of their minds will always think about family. This is the foundation of the glass ceiling: a general assumption made by men that women will either not want to or will not be capable of taking on work at higher level positions.

It is a funny thing. It probably never occurred to these people to ask the women themselves of their opinions before making such stereotypical assumptions. Stereotypes are powerful and affect our decision making processes. Smart leaders know that they do not always know what they do not know. Asking questions and having an open-mind will usually serve the workplace better than just assuming.

Another reason leading to the formation of this troublesome stereotype is the fact that people of color and females are not as often given access to opportunities for top-leadership promotions than the rest of the workforce still to this very day. Mentors are hired a lot less for females in some organizations, and as a result, many are not yet skilled enough to climb the corporate ladder. It is up to women and people of color to stand up for themselves in this matter and seize the opportunity to learn these skills in order to advance. Leadership training must be made available by organizations with adequate financial support.

Undoubtedly, business leaders play a huge role in shattering this abhorrent glass. However, females and people of color themselves should also begin to take the matter in their own hands. The literature on gender differences suggests that females generally possess more humility than males, but often do not emphasize their skills as much as men do. So, if they don’t show their talents in the correct light, no one will notice them enough. It is up to women and people of color to take a stand and not look back when the promotion is offered. We are each our own manager of our reputation and our success. We also need to check our biases and recognize when we may not be open to leveraging the diversity that others have to offer. It is even better if we give people a chance to grow with the organization no matter their ethnicity or gender.

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Dr. Paul Gerhardt is a tenured professor of management. He is a diversity and leadership well-respected and trusted trainer who helps organizations get amazing returns on investment. Dr. Gerhardt is the author of several publications available on, including Diversity at WorkThe Diversity KingLeadership Lucy and the new upcoming Leadership Handbook. Consider inviting Dr. Paul Gerhardt to do customized leadership or diversity training at your organization. Most organizations find that diversity and leadership training by the right trainer yields a significant instant return on investment. You can get your FREE COPY of the Leadership Handbook by clicking this link:


Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.