Glass ceiling

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Glass ceiling is a term that was coined in the latter half of the twentieth century, though it is still often invoked today. We will look at the meaning of the term glass ceiling, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

The glass ceiling describes the invisible, unofficial barrier that stops certain segments of  workers from attaining a higher level of success. Most often, the term glass ceiling is used when discussing the business realities often afforded to women or minorities. The idea is that the next level on the rung of success is easily visible, but when the worker reaches for it she is stopped by an invisible obstacle. The first documented use of the term glass ceiling was in a speech given by feminist Marilyn Loden in 1978. The term entered mainstream English in the 1980s. In 1991, the United States Civil Rights Act of 1991 created The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission and tasked it with identifying barriers that block the advancement of women and minorities. Related terms are the sticky floor, which describes the phenomenon of being unable to advance past low-paying, minimum wage jobs and the frozen middle, which describes the phenomenon of being stalled in middle management and unable to advance one’s career.


‘Divines’ Director Houda Benyamina on a Journey to Break Glass Ceiling in France (Variety Magazine)

“Leanna Brown broke the glass ceiling long before many others,” said an emotional Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, who served with Brown on the freeholder board in the 1970s. (The Daily Record)

“Now more than ever, it is enormously important to celebrate and raise the visibility of women breaking glass ceilings especially within our own community because we need to be reminded that we are strong, capable, united and powerful in a time when our voices, especially spoken in unity, are needed more than ever before.” says Mariah Hanson. (The LGBT Weekly)