The “glass ceiling” is an invisible barrier that prevents women and minorities from rising higher up the corporate ladder; thosethat do are said to “shatter the glass ceiling.” The term “glass ceiling"was popularized in a Wall Street Journal on March 24. 1986.
Gay Bryant, the editor of Working Woman magazine, used “glass ceiling” in a 1984 interview with Adweek and in the book The Working Woman Report: Succeeding in Business in the 80s (1984). According to a 2009 article about Gay Bryant and “glass ceiling” (see below), “Bryant doesn’t remember if she made up the term or found it in the piles of the research she did on the book or heard it in from one of the thousands of working women she was tuned into.”
An OCLC WorldCat record (see below) for a 1974 study of women’s labor force participation, published in 1984, has “Other questions probed respondents’ feelings about equal job opportunities for men and women, equal privileges for women and men, the removal of the glass ceiling for women in America’s corporate and political life, ...” It is not clear if “glass ceiling” here is from 1974, 1984, or the current WorldCat entry.
“Marble ceiling” is a government term that Nancy Pelosi used as she became the first female House Minority Whip in 2002 and then the first female House Speaker in 2007.
Women who break the “glass ceiling” into executive jobs often face a “glass cliff,” with a high rate of failure. The term “glass cliff” was coined by two psychology professors in 2004 and became popular in the media ten years later.
Wikipedia: Glass ceiling
In economics, the term glass ceiling refers to “the unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.” Initially, the metaphor applied to barriers in the careers of women but was quickly extended to refer to obstacles hindering the advancement of minority men, as well as women.
The term “glass ceiling” has been thought to have first been used to refer to invisible barriers that impede the career advancement of women in the American workforce in an article by Carol Hymowitz and Timothy Schellhardt in the March 24, 1986 edition of the Wall Street Journal. However, the term was used prior to that; for instance, it was utilized in a March 1984 Adweek article by Gay Bryant. The term glass ceiling was used prior to the 1984 article by two women at Hewlett-Packard in 1979, Katherine Lawrence and Marianne Schreiber, to describe how while on the surface there seemed to be a clear path of promotion, in actuality women seemed to hit a point which they seemed unable to progress beyond. Upon becoming CEO and chairwoman of the board of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina proclaimed that there was no glass ceiling. After her term at HP, she called her earlier statement a “[d]umb thing to say.”
The term was used by the U.S. Department of Labor in 1991 in response to a study of nine Fortune 500 companies. The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission study confirmed that women and minorities encountered considerable glass ceiling barriers in their careers; these barriers were experienced earlier in their professions than previously thought.
Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary
glass ceiling noun
Definition of GLASS CEILING
: an intangible barrier within a hierarchy that prevents women or minorities from obtaining upper-level positions
First Known Use of GLASS CEILING
(Oxford English Dictionary)
glass ceiling n. orig U.S. an unofficial or unacknowledged barrier to personal advancement, esp. of a woman or a member of an ethnic minority in employment. Also transf.
1984 Adweek 15 Mar. (Magazine World 1984) 39/2 Women have reached a certain point—I call it the glass ceiling. They’re in the top of middle management and they’re stopping and getting stuck.
1988 New Scientist 8 Oct. 62/3 Sadly, astronomers from all countries report a ‘glass ceiling’. The proportion of women is highest for the lower grades.
1991 Newsweek 11 Mar. 57/1 In the Army, where three in 10 enlistees are African-American, 11 percent of the officers are black. Advances in the ranks are obstructed by ‘glass ceilings’, where networking and old-boyism still speed the advance of mediocre whites.
OCLC WorldCat record
Detroit Area Study, 1974 A Study of Women’s Labor Force Participation
Author: Karen Mason; William Mason; Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research.
Publisher: Ann Arbor, Mich. : Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1984.
Series: ICPSR (Series), 7901.
Edition/Format: Computer file : English : ICPSR version
Summary: This study of 438 women aged 18-65 in the Detroit metropolitan area in 1974 provides information on their participation in the labor force. Data are provided on the job histories of respondents, up to 14 previous occupations in order to assess the nature of work, length of stay on the job, and the status of public or private employment. Respondents were asked questions about the various jobs they had held, such as their feelings toward their jobs, their reasons for working, job titles held, membership in labor unions, health conditions that might have affected their work, reasons for leaving their jobs, and the geographic location of their workplace, as well as their feelings of job security and job satisfaction. Other questions probed respondents’ feelings about equal job opportunities for men and women, equal privileges for women and men, the removal of the glass ceiling for women in America’s corporate and political life, the implications for the marriage if a wife earned more than her husband, career-oriented wives, husbands’ share of household chores, and working mothers. Additional items explored respondents’ opinions of government’s efforts to eliminate sexual and racial discrimination, and the idea of changes in divorce laws to make divorce easier or harder to obtain. Demographic variables specify age, sex, education, marital status, income, relationship to head of household, household composition, nationality, political party affiliation, and social class identification. Also provided is demographic information on family members.... Cf.: http://webapp.icpsr.umich.edu/cocoon/ICPSR-STUDY/07901.xml.
The Working Woman Report:
Succeeding in business in the 80s
Edited by Gay Bryant
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
...a lot of women are hitting a “glass ceiling” and finding they can rise no further.
After years of experience in corporations, a woman may find that she hits a glass ceiling, that despite long service and considerable managerial talent, she is not getting neat a top position.
OCLC WorldCat record
Effective public relations
Author: Scott M Cutlip; Allen H Center; Glen M Broom
Publisher: Englewood Cliffs, N.J. : Prentice-Hall, ©1985.
Edition/Format: Book : English : 6th ed
The Glass Ceiling --
OCLC WorldCat record
Breaking the glass ceiling : can women reach the top of America’s largest corporations?.
Author: Ann M Morrison; Center for Creative Leadership.
Publisher: Reading, Mass. : Addison-Wesley, 1987.
Edition/Format: Book : English
OCLC WorldCat record
Exploring the “glass ceiling”: a comparison of career enablers and barriers for female and male middle managers.
Author: Mary S Couming; Sloan School of Management.
Publisher: Cambridge, Mass., Massachusetts Institute of Technology., 1988.
Edition/Format: Book Microform : Microfiche : English
The Glass Hammer
April 9th, 2009 | 6:00 am
The Glass Ceiling: Who Said That?
by Paige Churchman (New York City)
Gay Bryant is probably the first to use “the glass ceiling” in print, and she did throw it out there in her Adweek interview. However, the very first time she put those words on paper were on page 19 of her book, The Working Woman Report. In chapter 1, Where We Are, Bryant writes:
Throughout the corporate world—faster in some industries, slower in others—the door to real power for women has opened. But it is just ajar. Women may already be in middle management, but the steps from there up to the senior hierarchy are likely to be slow and painstakingly small. Partly because corporations are structured as pyramids, with many middle managers trying to move up into the few available spots, and partly because of continuing, though more subtle, discrimination, a lot of women are hitting a “glass ceiling” and finding they can rise no further.
But here’s the catch―Bryant doesn’t remember if she made up the term or found it in the piles of the research she did on the book or heard it in from one of the thousands of working women she was tuned into. She wasn’t trying to come up with a catch phrase that would stick for decades. She was trying to pull everything she could about working women into a book. A word Bryant used several times in our meeting at a noisy West Village café was “articulate” as in “a force that needed to be articulated.” She’s not a copywriter or a poet. She is a smart observer who’s really good at picking up on what’s going on, giving it form, and getting it into a medium that people gobble up and talk about.
Great job dear. This is a very insightful post.