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“Glass Ceiling” Concept Report



Recognizing the implication of failure to manage organizational diversity, many organizations endeavor to provide equal job opportunities and career development through upward mobility practices that do not segregate employees based on their demographic and psychographic differences.

However, cases of glass ceiling are still common in corporations across the globe. The current research discusses the concept of glass ceiling. It identifies its potential relationship with the overall quality and productivity in the workplace.

Although the research findings are backed by qualitative data, they indicate that low overall quality and productivity in organizations that employ high number of minorities and women may be attributed to the glass ceiling effect.


Despite their well-designed policies for managing diversity, organizations continue to experience the glass ceiling effect. Buckalew, Konstantinopoulos, Russell, and El-Sherbini (2012) define glass ceiling as “the unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper ranks of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements” (p.145).

Management literature contends that embracing the concept of effective management of organizational diversity, including ensuring equality and equity, may help to curtail the glass ceiling effect. However, it is not yet known why women and some minorities continue to have a low upward mobility in corporate ladder across the globe, despite the effective deployment of principles of equity and equality in organizations that employ people from diverse backgrounds (Wilson, 2014).

This paper focuses on this gap in literature on the glass ceiling effect. The rest of the paper is divided into three main sections. The first section presents the foundational framework, including a statement of research objectives and research framework or methodology.

The second section presents a literature review on glass ceiling effect in organizations by referring to the latest peer reviewed journal articles. Section three offers the implication of the research for managers. It also incorporates recommendations for organizations that are experiencing the glass ceiling effect.

Research objectives

Research objectives specify the purpose of conducting a research. The objective of the current research is to discuss how the glass ceiling may exist in a workplace. It also objects to discuss the significance of glass ceiling on the overall quality of an organization.

Research framework

Research can be designed to deploy primary or secondary resources. The current research relies on secondary data to discuss the concept of glass ceiling in modern organizations. The search is conducted through online credible libraries.

Various scholars prescribe certain characteristics that a qualitative research must meet for its results and recommendations to arrive at effective resolution of the stated problem. For this reason, the methodology that is deployed in the current research needs to have some specific characteristics, which include credibility, reliability, use of rigorous methods and verification, validity and clarity, and coherence in reporting.

The current research needs to portray a high degree of internal and external validity for the recommendations and implications to hold substance in organizations. Internal validity implies the degree of truth of various claims that are raised in the research and the existing variables. On the other hand, external validity implies the degree to which the findings can be generalized.

The method that is utilized in a qualitative research needs to aid researchers to attain optimal levels of validity of their study for their work to add a significant knowledge to the body of knowledge they seek to amplify, which in this case is the status of the glass ceiling in organizations.

Since this research is designed to be a secondary research, validity encompasses a significant issue given that secondary materials are adopted from researches that were done in the past whose findings may be outdated. However, this challenge is dealt with by careful selection of the secondary materials for analysis.

The research only draws from researches that have been done in the past three years. To enhance reliability of the secondary materials in making recommendations and research implications, only peer reviewed articles are used in the research.

Literature review

Multinational organizations employ people from diverse backgrounds. This observation implies that organizational diversity is a key characteristic of such organizations. One of critical aspects to consider in addressing the challenges of diversity management entails resolution of the issues of glass ceiling (Wilson, 2014).

Organizational diversity refers to the myriads of differences that exist among people who work in an organization with regard to parameters such as sexual characteristics, race, societal principles, maturity, income levels, work experience, parental status, spiritual viewpoints, civilization, religion, and physical abilities among others (Wilson, 2014).

Given that failure to manage organizational workforce diversity may lead to a negative impairment of its performance in the short and long run, the challenge of workforce diversity management is a critical problem that every organization that seeks to go global needs to address proactively.

Cook and Glass (2014) define various elements that fuel the existence of glass ceiling inequality within a corporation. An organization needs to uphold racial and/or gender differences (Cook & Glass, 2014). This claim suggests that employee professional qualifications fail to explain the policies that are deployed in the promotion and allocation of job responsibilities in a corporation.

Glass ceiling is also characterized by the existence of “a gender or racial difference that is greater at higher levels than the lower levels of an outcome” (Cook & Glass, 2014, p.1081). This situation destroys organizational quality of workforce output, and in this extent the productivity of an organization.

Glass ceiling also manifests itself in severer ways in corporations when inequality rises when people advance in their careers. Hence, irrespective of employee efforts whose upward mobility is restricted by promotion inequalities, they still find themselves in one hierarchical position in the career development ladder.

Russo and Hassink (2012) contend with this position by adding that glass ceiling is also characterized by “a gender or racial inequality in the chances of advancement into higher levels, not merely the proportions of each gender or race that is currently at such higher levels” (p.892). Glass ceiling is positively linked with gender.

Russo and Hassink’s (2012) expositions indicate that irrespective of their qualification levels, minorities and women who form part of organizational diversity still experience challenges in advancing their career ladder in corporate settings in comparison with other groups of people. In the US, the Equal Pay Act finished the behavior of giving male workers higher salaries relative to what female workers get for parallel employment positions.

However, amid such efforts, some women and minorities still feel that they are discriminated in the workplace. In Australia, a research by the Australian Human Rights Commission indicated about 49 percent of women claimed they were discriminated in terms of parental leaves, upon returning to work from leaves and/or pregnancy period (Xiu & Gunderson, 2014).

More of this discrimination (35%) was likely when returning to work (Xiu & Gunderson, 2014). Common discriminations include denial of flexible working schedule to take care of familial responsibilities and unfair treatment on returning to work from parental leaves. The level of upward mobility in careers is also lower among minorities and women in the US (Cook & Glass, 2014).

This situation may create the perception among minorities and women that they are less important in organizational processes compared to groups whose probability of upward mobility in their careers in corporate settings is higher. Consistent with the above assertion, an increasing number of scholarly studies reveal that a direct correlation exists between worker turnout, career performance, devotion, and discernment of being valuable resources of an organization.

For instance, according to Cook and Glass (2014), “if the management and team members fail to value women and minorities, company productivity will likely suffer as a consequence” (p.1086). This finding infers that low perception of the significance of minorities and women in an organization due to the glass-ceiling element influences organizational productivity and quality of work. How does the glass-ceiling element occur?

Glass ceiling comprises various indistinguishable obstructions (the glass) via which minorities and female potential workers are capable of identifying prestigious positions in corporations, but have a low probability of accessing them. Cook and Glass (2014) describe the reduced chances as the ceiling effect.

The barriers ensure that women and minorities do not have access to any prestigious or highly paying job within an organization. This situation has the effect of developing the perception that women and minorities do not possess the necessary attributes of taking up such jobs. The feeling of worthiness that comes with perception has negative ramifications of their productivity and keenness, which are essential for quality production of goods and services (Russo & Hassink, 2012).

These negative results have the implication of influencing the level of job satisfaction for employees who experience the glass ceiling. Several factors contribute to job dissatisfaction. For instance, personal dissatisfaction occurs due to “compensation issues, job security, job autonomy, and relationships with supervisors among other reasons” (Jones, 2012, p.78).

Job satisfaction concerns within organizations have traditionally been approached from the theoretical paradigm that work approval and performance are related. The implication is that if employees are happy about their working situations, they portray higher efficiency and effectiveness levels.

In this context, Jones (2012) asserts, “Over the years, many employers and employees alike have held to this belief, and placed a great deal of emphasis on making sure that employees are satisfied with their jobs to trigger the desired outcome” (p.79). The preferred result is dependent on the goals and objectives of an organization. In the service sector industry, preferred results may include service rate and service quality.

In organizations that deal essentially with production, preferred results encompass an increase in productivity levels accruing from quality products and/or production capacity. The general contention in the research on job satisfaction and organizational success is that satisfied employees have the capacity to produce and deliver higher-quality products and services.

When the performance of an organization is measured from the context of productivity levels, it implies that job satisfaction has a direct correlation with quality and the overall organizational productivity. According to Buckalew et al., (2012), glass ceiling has the effect of lowering the level of job fulfillment amongst women and minorities who experience the inequality. Theoretically, a correlation may exist between glass ceiling and the overall organizational quality.

Job satisfaction depends on whether workers like or hate what they do. With the perception that a corporation is reluctant to consider one for a position that he or she is most suited in terms of prestige, it is unlikely that one will be contended with what he or she does.

Workers may love their jobs, but not their organizational work environment. Qualification and expertise levels influence the perception of the best-suited environment for any individual. This observation suggests that glass ceiling fails to match the qualification and expertise levels of people with some jobs and the environment in which they are done.

For the nature of job to satisfy the workers, Wilson (2014) holds that employees evaluate the role they are expected to play, the amount they earn, how they relate internally, and the mechanisms of control and endorsements. Since glass ceiling has the effect of placing some minorities and women in low-ranking jobs, they experience inequality in the amount of pay and denial of an opportunity to form relationships with people who belong to their educational and expatriate caliber (Xiu & Gunderson, 2014).

From the perspectives of the pay levels, satisfaction with salary and wages depends on the amount that employees feel they deserve to earn in relation to their present pay and/or in the context of their educational and experience levels. Xiu and Gunderson (2014) illustrate that earning lower than one expects leads to automatic dissatisfaction as opposed to earning higher than what one anticipates.

The dimension in which people look at the nature of jobs may influence their performance. As revealed before, job satisfaction is realizable differently based on individual worker’s interest in a certain component of a job. Inequality that is brought about by glass ceiling constitutes one of such factors that have negative ramifications on the quality and overall job productivity.

Organizations, which still have high prevalence for glass ceiling in their workplaces, are likely to plunge into expensive lawsuits and out-of-court settlements that are largely contributed by poor management of various talent tools. Additionally, such organizations are susceptible to costs that are linked to replacement of employees due to turnover and poor promotion practices (Russo & Hassink, 2012).

In case an organization comprises people of varying ethnicities and/or higher proportions of women as compared to the average general industry, a question comes up concerning how reconciliation of differences among employees can be achieved without causing undue friction during every day employee interactions.

Friction may occur due to conflicts that arise when a less qualified person is promoted at the expense of a more qualified woman or any person from the minority group. This observation implies that the perception of discrimination in promotion policies may lower the productivity or quality of work that is delivered due to reduced work morale.

Implications for management

Productivity and quality of services and goods that are offered for sale in the global marketplace are incredibly important for an organization that seeks to gain a competitive advantage in a market of excessive production and increasing competition. This research identifies glass ceiling as one of factors that lower the overall quality and employee productivity, especially where an organization may possess talented women and people from minority communities.

Such people may be holding the necessary organizational vision, although they do not gain access to upward mobility in their career ladder. In this extent, this research has some significant implications for management. In any organization, it needs to consider reviewing policies that influence glass ceiling to eliminate inequalities as way of encouraging the deployment of employees as sources of competitive advantage.

Glass ceiling constitutes one of the factors that hinder an organization from taking full advantage of all employees’ talent potential and managerial capabilities by segregating women and minorities from competing equally with others for prestigious job positions. Wilson (2014) asserts that many of the issues that cause friction in the organization are mainly attributed to perspectives of minority and majority workforce differences.

Thus, the management has the responsibility of establishing policies with the intention of implementing them to prohibit glass ceiling. Indeed, some organizations that experience glass ceiling have policies that prohibit it. However, the intention to implement them in practice constitutes the main challenge.

Implications for research

The current research reviews scholarly works on the overall quality and productivity of an organization and glass ceiling in an effort to establish a likely relationship between the two. Although the discussions of the research ascertain the possibility of correlation between the two, it is not backed up by empirical data.

Consequently, a room exists for measuring the degree of the correlation between the two variables by conducting a primary research using empirical data from organizations that encounter cases of glass ceiling. Any empirical research begins by conducting a study on the existence of a research problem.

The current research has sought to identify and evidence the likelihood of experiencing low overall quality and productivity in corporations due to the glass ceiling effect. Additional research can help in establishing a significant level of the effects of glass ceiling on the overall quality and productivity of organizations in different industries and subsectors.


Upon considering that organizations need to build their competitive advantage by deploying people as the most important resources, it is important to utilize every talent potential and employee expertise in building a success story. In this extent, it is recommended that organizations consider evaluating their policies to identify cases of glass ceiling and/or adopt appropriate strategies for their elimination.

A recommended standard practice to achieve this goal entails setting up a leadership upward mobility evaluation program for the employees within the HR department. Their success in eliminating inequalities that are attributed to glass ceiling can help in increasing the overall quality of an organization through increased effort by women and minorities in a bid to acquire promotions such programs develop benchmarks for low-ranking minority and talented women workers.


Development of a plausible knowledge on glass ceiling and its effects by today’s management professionals is crucial in the redefinition of new strategic direction for organizations that experience low overall quality and productivity. Many issues that are encountered in the work environment prompt intolerance concerning the differences that characterize workers.

However, this problem can be solved using the approach of workforce diversity management. Embracing workforce diversity also means providing equal opportunities for upward mobility for all employees, despite their gender, racial, or ethnic backgrounds, by putting in place policies, which are backed up by clear intention of implementing them to prevent glass ceiling.

Reference List

Buckalew, E., Konstantinopoulos, A., Russell, J., & El-Sherbini, S. (2012). The Future of Female CEOs and their Glass Ceiling. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 3(4), 145-153.

Cook, A., & Glass, C. (2014). Above The Glass Ceiling: When Women and Racial/ Ethnic Minorities Promoted to CEO. Strategic Management Journal, 35(7), 1080-1089.

Jones, D. (2012). Which is a better predictor of job performance: Job satisfaction or life satisfaction? Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, 15(6), 77-97.

Russo, G., & Hassink, W. (2012). Multiple Glass Ceiling. Industrial Relations, 51(4), 892-915.

Wilson, E. (2014). Diversity, Culture and the Glass Ceiling. Journal of Cultural Diversity, 21(3), 83-89.

Xiu, L., & Gunderson, M. (2014). Glass Ceiling or Sticky Floor? Quintile Regression Decomposition of the Gender Pay Gap in China. International Labor, 35 (3), 306-326.

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