Glass Ceiling – Myth or Reality!

Glass Ceiling – Myth or Reality!


Gone are those days when women were made to stay at home and expected to perform house chores. Well, is that really true? If we think about it, today, women do receive better treatment from society as compared to the past.

 A workplace is no more just meant for males, an increasing number of women enter the corporate world each year. However, there is one question that still exists in our society i.e.  Is a woman truly free?  Is she truly allowed to climb up the ladder of success when it comes to her career?

Entering into an organization is not a troublesome task anymore, but moving up the hierarchy is indeed challenging. Women receive fewer opportunities than their male counterparts to showcase their full potential, and have to prove themselves repeatedly so as to make their way towards a better position. 

Companies talk about inclusion, gender equality, and workforce diversity all over the world, but still, the women’s workforce faces an invisible barrier in their work lives. The concept of an invisible barrier to success in women’s career is known as  ‘Glass Ceiling’ which was first coined in 1978 by Marilyn Loden. 

According to the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, the concept glass ceiling refers to “artificial barriers to the advancement of women and minorities. The glass ceiling is 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”(Cotter, Hermsen, Ovadia & Vanneman, 2001).

Though women play a momentous role for family and society in the current scenario, recent studies   have witnessed the existence of a ‘glass ceiling’ in the organizations (Sampson & Moore, 2008; Jain & Mukherji, 2010; Dimovski et al., 2010; Chandrasekar & Siva Prakash, 2011). 

In India, women not only have to fight against workplace gender biases, but also struggle their way through the old school assumptions and social barriers that exist to date. In this context, studies have been done for decades. While changes are taking place within the social framework of India, traditional roles still persist. The old practices such as dowry, sati or the triple talaq abolishing did not change everything at once. ‘In spite of the progress Indian women have made over the years, they are still considered the country’s single largest group of backward citizens.’ (Bumiller,1990)


Women at Workplace

The deep-rooted system prevents most of the female employees from exploring their full potential. The decades-old mentality and old practices to date restrict women from being what they want to be. Even if a girl is well-educated, financial independent she still faces societal pressure to get married at cost of compromising with her career.

Even today, education is not easily accessible to many children, especially girls in India, the reason being, women have been a part of a belief system that they are not meant to work outside their homes leaving their veils. Working mothers are easily assumed to be incapable of handling their work and personal lives at the same time. In a study at National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), Sabatier (2010) found that the promotion strategies were different for men than those for women. 

Assumptions like women are too delicate and emotional to lead the top positions and, men are born leaders; close the windows for the fresh air of innovation, critical thinking, and success at a workplace for women employees. Women are projected to be cheerful, reliant, and nurturing characteristics. Researchers have noted that people who are a successful manager behave like a masculine character (Burton & Parker, 2010; Frey, James, & Eitzen, 1991). Men who communicate with their subordinates as tough leaders in their organizations are often seen as being “direct,” but women who acquire the same communication style with their subordinates is seen as “punitive” (Brittany J. Galloway,

Source: (Mukhopadhyay, Rivera and Tapia, 2019)

 Recent study covering Gender Equality

According to the Gender Social Norms the index released by United Nations Development Program in 2020, covering over 80% of world’s population despite various steps taken  towards minimizing the gender gap around 90 percent of people observe some biasness against women, providing  evidence  the existence  of  glass ceiling phenomena  at the workplace .

The index also reported that about majority of people think that men would be  better political leaders, and over 40% feel that men could lead better at top positions in a company and men have more right to have a job at times when jobs are scarce.

Source: Human Development Report Office (report GSNI,2020)


Gender inequality is correlated with a loss in human development due to inequality. Investing in women’s equality and lifting both their living standards and their empowerment are thus central to the human development agenda and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). (Human Development Report Office and GSNI, 2020).

Empowering women and strengthening their position in the society is the aim of several Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations, since without the participation of women, it is impossible to ensure environmental sustainability, (Sakshi Sharma and Parul Sehrawat, 2014).

The way forward

The glass ceiling is an intangible object which in one or the other way has affected women’s progress over the years and will take years to break down. The ceiling certainly exists in the outlook of individuals irrespective of gender. The ultimate breaking of the glass ceiling will be at a juncture where individuals profoundly accept the transformation of women from mere entities managing homes to entities that hold and managing key positions, in the economy. 

Women should be socially empowered, which means, equality should prevail in the society for men and women without any gender discrimination, including equal rights to be born, literacy, education, employment, property, participation in decision making within household and community, policymaking, politics, and no subordination. Therefore, all private organizations should enhance the participation of women in managerial decision-making in leadership positions, (Dheepa & Barani, 2010).

Strict steps into these matters by the concerned authority at every organization must be taken to restrict gender-based discrimination at management levels. Unbiased promotion policy, performance evaluation, and compensation system should be ensured along with clearly defining of repercussions of any discriminatory practice inside the organization. Corporate   should follow the strict code of conduct against gender discrimination and workforce gender diversity should be achieved at all the levels of the management. Inclusion should the embedded part of the culture.


It is well said that many a little makes a mickle. On similar lines, these stereotypes and beliefs slowly and silently got into the souls of people in our society and built an unconscious practice.  Nothing can be changed in the blink of an eye, it all starts from homes and we must try to bring those small changes in perspective from today.  Now is the best time for the parents in our society to understand that instead of finding a hero in the lives of their daughters, they should encourage them to rise and become their own “she-roes.” Instead of asking their daughters to fit into the glass slippers, parents should encourage them to be confident in whatever they are doing and excel in their fields, breaking all ceilings and barriers. Besides, the objective is not to raise women above anyone but to provide and create such an environment for all to receive equal opportunity to grow, nurture and develop


“Gender equality is not about raising women up at the cost of men. It’s about creating a workplace that values men and women equally and gives everyone the freedom to be themselves at work. Equality is freedom.”

~ Michelle King



‘Glass Ceiling – Myth or Reality!’ article is written by Dr. Priyanka Nema, Asst. Prof., Jagran Lakecity Business School, Jagran Lakecity University and Nitya Joshi, 3rd Year student of BMS, JLBS, Jagran Lakecity University. 

The views presented in the article are of writers alone.

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