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Glass Ceiling a Fact or Fiction

“What is the glass ceiling?” “Is it a ceiling made out of glass?” In business, it is defined as “an upper limit to professional advancement, especially as imposed upon women that is not readily perceived or openly acknowledged.”

In 1986, journal reporters used the term “glass ceiling” in the newspapers, and they described it as the barriers that limit the advancement of women and minorities. In other words, it is a ceiling based on attitudes, an organization’s stereotypes, or bias that prevents the advancement of women and minorities (a racial, religious or a political group) to high-level positions.

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Since the past decade, women and minorities were allowed limited roles in the workplace. Twenty years ago, women made up for 1% of the top management. Twenty-five years ago, women made up for 15% of the management in a company. Now women make up for 45% of the management. Recently, minorities make up 20% of senior executives in a company.

Only 5% of minorities who are women are senior-level managers. Research reveals that women and minorities in various ethnic groups become employed in service industries such as finance, real estate, wholesale, and retail trade. In addition, research also reveals that women and minorities seem to have a greater opportunity for advancement in industries such as telecommunications and businesses. There are more chances of advancement because there are more restructuring and competition in telecommunications and businesses.

The management’s perception of men and women (in regular activities) can influence the glass ceiling and create obstacles for women. When a family picture is on a man’s desk, management might believe that he is a responsible family man. If it was on a woman’s desk, management may believe that her family is more important to her than her career.

If a man is going to get married or have a baby, management will arrange for a raise. When a woman announces that she is going to have a baby, management might think that the company is going to have more expenses in maternity and benefits. Even when a man talks to his co-workers, management may think that he is talking about how to improve the business. In management’s perspective, if a woman is talking to her co-workers, they assume that she must be gossiping.

There are many types of glass ceiling barriers. An example is when management does not create systems, policies, and procedures for developing workplace diversity. Another occasion is when certain people are paid differently while performing the same or similar type of work as others. The last barrier is limited opportunities for advancement to higher positions (decision-making).

Women may have started to crack the glass ceiling in fields such as Information Technology, Science, and Finance. Even though women have started cracking the glass ceiling, they have not broken it yet. Recently, only 2% of women are in top management. In order to break the glass ceiling, one must understand the laws related to it, how often it occurs, the companies that are against it, and the prevention of the glass ceiling.

The glass ceiling is a major concern. This is why the government enforced many rules in order to prevent unequal treatment towards women and minorities. The three main laws enforced to help with the prevention of discrimination are The Ontario Human Rights Code, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, and Affirmative Action.

Discrimination against females and minorities was a major issue in the past. There have been many changes in today’s world to prevent the glass ceiling from happening. A law that has been enforced is The Ontario Human Rights Code. With this code in place, it enables everyone to have equal rights, opportunities, and freedom from discrimination. This code attempts to prevent harassment and discrimination from one’s colour, race, gender, age, and disability at their workplace, in restaurants, hospitals, schools, public transits, stores, and many other places.

This law was the first law in Canada that recognized the discrimination that women and minorities had faced. Prior to the year of 1962, there were many other laws that dealt with discrimination, but the Code brought all of this together into one law, and also added a few other protections. The Human Rights Commission was enforced in 1961 to protect the rights of everyone in Ontario (including Aboriginal people).
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom has many laws to prevent discrimination and promote equality rights.

It came into force in April 17, 1982. “The Charter guarantees certain political and civil rights of people in Canada from the policies and actions of all levels of government. It is designed to unify Canadians around a set of principles that embody those rights.” In 1960, the Charter of Rights continued from the Canadian Bill of Rights. Under the Charter of Rights and Freedom section 15, it says, “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, gender, age or mental or physical disability”.

There are a series of steps that can be taken if one believes that their Charter of Rights has been infringed upon. Everyone has the right to go to court and find a solution. First, this person should prove that their rights or freedom has been infringed upon. Later, the government will prove that the limit is reasonable under section 1 of the Charter of Rights.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes affirmative action. The fourth Act promised that “[n]o person…shall, on the ground of race, colour, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Affirmative action means to increase the representation of women and minorities in the workplace, education, and business. When the steps are based on preference (selection or promotion of workers based on their race, gender, or ethnicity), affirmative action creates a problem for the business.

A pregnant employee must take maternity leave after giving birth. She is permitted to set the date on which she will start and end her maternity leave. The Law of Maternity leave helps prevent any discrimination against women or any unfair treatment towards them because of pregnancy.

The Law of Maternity leaves states that a pregnant employee is entitled to maternity leave. She must notify management within fifteen weeks before the birth of the employee’s newborn, her expected week of birth, and the date she expects to start her maternity leave. The length of time for maternity leave is usually twenty-six weeks but if needed the employee may ask for an extended period of time.

The employee can make the decision of when she wants to begin her maternity leave. However, the date that the employee chooses must not be earlier than the eleventh week before the expected week of birth. Management is only allowed to suspend an employee who is pregnant when she has recently given birth if she is breastfeeding if she works regular nightshifts, or for any health or safety reasons. Management is not allowed to dismiss an employee because of the employee’s pregnancy.

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Before suspending the employee, management should consider another place to work for the employee. If there is another position available, but it is not offered to the employee, then she has the ability to complain to the Employment Tribunal. If the management wishes to confirm the baby’s date of birth, and whether the employee is willing to return to work after the additional maternity leave, then the employer can write a letter to the employee twenty-one days before the end of the leave.

In the letter, it must explain when the additional maternity leave will end and what will happen if she doesn’t respond to the letter within the time period required. Women are protected from any unfair treatment at work due to their pregnancy or childbirth, or their wish to take maternity leave.

Even with these laws in place, the glass ceiling still exists. This is a fact because no one takes it seriously. When a murder happens, everyone knows it is illegal, yet when it comes to the discrimination they fail to realize it. Therefore, management must make accurate decisions on hiring and promoting without discriminating.

As more women are joining the workforce and reaching some of the top positions in management by breaking the glass ceiling barriers, there still seems to be a significant amount of women that have made little progress in cracking the glass ceiling. A report shows there is an estimation that it will take eighteen years for women to be in 25% of top-level management. It is also evident that the women’s role has had a significant improvement in the workforce but there are also fields that have not been improved yet or they have not made enough progress.
There are many reasons as to why the glass ceiling has existed throughout the history of the business workforce.

Although there have been many changes in the status of women, which can be seen especially in the developed nations where women supposedly are given equal rights as men. The results of 2002 make it very evident that even today in many areas women still stand unequal to men as the median total compensation of male CEOs in nonprofit organizations was $147,085, approximately 50% higher than the median total of female CEOs which was $98,108. Numerous studies and reports have proved that huge discrepancies in salary obviously favour men. The intimidating part about this situation is that it is more likely to happen in developed countries rather than the developing countries.

The greater advancement of women in management is because the pool of talented women are qualified and available for board responsibilities, which has grown significantly in recent years, as more women are given more chances. They are gaining more experiences, which broaden their qualification level and their experience and thus it leaves them with more chances for advancement. As a result, some industries tend to have more women than others.

However, all large Canadian companies are not yet taking advantage of this opportunity.

Due to the opportunities given to women by some of the organizations, women earn an average of $47,315 a year, second only to their counterparts. Governments are supporting and funding to create organizations in favour of women. Organizations are being created to help support women and minorities return to the workforce, and get hired without any bias or gender differences. Even though women and minorities can be found in many places such as universities, discrimination against women still exists. If women try to fight for their rights, they are considered out of place, and they face stressful situations by trying to speak out.

However, studies have shown that women who do stand up and speak out, stand more successful in management. This is because women’s availability is questioned. It seems that women’s personal life takes over their career. Women’s double standards also hinder women’s progress, and thus it decreases their chances of getting promotions.

The United States have slightly more women directors than in Canada, 13.6 per cent compared to 12 per cent. This shows that Canada is falling behind in recognizing the talent that all the women can offer the workforce. Even after being one of the top ten developed countries worldwide, studies have shown that women in developing countries have a greater chance in breaking the glass ceiling as compared to the developed countries where the luxury and a struggle-free life has led women to a lack of motivation.

In Canadian society, it is not just the women who are suffering from discrimination. The glass ceiling also exists for men, who are a part of the minority group.

Race % of total workforce Male Female
non-Hispanic white 78.8% 43.2% 35.6%
African American 10.1% 4.1% 5.3%
American Indian / Eskimo / Aleut 0.6% 0.3% 0.3%
Asian & Pacific Islander 2.8% 1.4% 1.3%
Hispanic (of “white” and “other” races) 7.8% 4.6% 3.2%
non-Hispanic other 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
100.0% 54.3% 45.7%

It seems that women and men who come from different ethnic groups seem to have fewer chances to get a job in the Canadian workforce. What seems to be very interesting is that women from different ethnic groups are overlooked over men, who also come from different ethnic groups. Results also show that if you come from a non-Hispanic (white) background, there is a greater chance of being accepted into the workforce regardless of the gender type.

National Mean Income Disparities
Race/ethnicity by gender of executives, administrators, and managers of private-for-profit companies with Bachelors of Master’s degrees.
Race / Ethnicity Bachelor’s Degree Master’s Degree
Male Female Male Female
Non-Hispanic white $47,181 $31,338 $57,371 $38,391
African American ($15,180) ($754) ($10,137) ($4,385)
Chinese ($5,924) ($2,032) $1,481 $7,292
Filipino ($7,992) ($3,045) ($7,204) ($7,160)
Japanese $22,406 ($373) ($13,071) $1,533
Asian Indian ($1,872) ($6,096) $5,997 ($6,970)
Korean ($4,400) ($5,559) ($5,801) ($10,576)
Vietnamese ($2,768) ($6,267) $5,923 ($4,350)
Other Southeast Asian ($20,211) ($6,679) ($20,694) **
Hawaiian ($11,252) ($8,066) ($14,079) **
Other Asian/Pacific Islander ($6,853) ($1,688) ($12,734) ($11,695)

Salaries also differ for people who have the same education, but come from different ethnic groups. This can be seen in below, where men are targeted as well but again women are targeted even more as they end up earning slightly less than men. People who come from non-Hispanic (white) background regardless of the gender, earn a higher salary.

Salaries Earned by both the Men and Women in the year of 1996
ASSOCIATE’S 219,514 335,702
BACHELOR’S 522,454 642,338
MASTER’S 179,081 227,220
DOCTORATE 26,841 17,811
TOTAL 992,638 1,255,057

The results above clearly show that in the end it is the women who end up with higher salaries compared to men. Even though the salary difference is not very high, it shows that the glass ceiling still remains in the workforce. Discrimination and the glass ceiling vary on yearly basis depending on individual beliefs, policies and procedures. Women-owned businesses have doubled in the past 12 years. Women chose to develop new businesses because of the glass ceiling.

Every year, there are 50 companies chosen among the others based on their positive policies and actions. The companies are chosen according to the skills and efforts that the employees and management have contributed to their organizations. The top 50 companies were companies (ranging from car rental companies to retailers) that promoted diversity. From the 137 companies that participated, between 200 and 1000 employees completed the detailed questionnaire. They stated that a way to make businesses successful is to make the company leaders play certain roles and work together with their employees.

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Company leaders build trust, make commitments and act upon them, and spend most of their time training employees. Leaders must also ensure that the appropriate resources are in place to support career development. They also look for ways to promote achievements for their employees especially for employees that are new to the organization. Leaders who keep a distance between their employees (in relationships), and who do not help them develop their skills are known as unsuccessful leaders. Organizations with people who work together are more likely to be successful than many other companies and are able to promote a respectful environment in the workplace.

Scotia bank is a well-known business. This organization focuses specifically on five corporate values which are integrity, respect, commitment, insight, and spirit that are gathered in all programs and services that are connected to their employees. Scotia bank has been treating all employees fairly and with respect. More than 72% of Scotia Bank’s employees are women. To prevent barriers for women, they are assisted in developing skills to follow senior-level management positions through progressive policies and programs. The organization uses the Employment Relationship Plan to bring diversity and leadership into their business processes. Scotia bank is trying to make improvements with women being a part of their leadership positions.

Recently, in Central Ontario, female bankers have formed a network, to increase the number of women in commercial banking roles and to help support greater training, development, mentoring, and networking. Scotia Capital is a member of Women in Capital Markets which benefits the involvement, development, and advancement of women in the capital market. There are also other programs which focus on career advancements and mentoring programs to help increase the number of women and minorities at Scotia Bank.

In Canada today, 1 in 5 Scotia bank employees are a part of a visible minority group. Scotia bank employees use promotion, training, and career planning programs to help increase the number of visible minorities in management roles. In addition, Scotia bank believes that all employees should be entitled to fairness and a respectable workplace. They do not tolerate any behaviour that interferes with the Canadian Human Rights Act or with any other human rights and anti-discrimination laws that belong to the bank’s operation.

They do not hire employees based on gender, race, or national origin. Overall, this organization works together to promote a welcoming environment to its employees, and by working together it will help the organization become successful in the future.

HBSC Bank Canada is one of Canada’s seven largest banks. It has over 170 offices with full service. HBSC Bank Canada now has over 7000 employees and 5,806 are federally regulated, permanent employees. This bank has built their business’s success by building strong relationships with its customers, and by getting involved with their community.

They have shown this by supporting many charitable organizations. They also contribute to society in many ways. They contribute to the education system, environmental programs, and community development. HBSC Bank Canada is determined to have a workplace that promotes diversity and they show this by including it in their policies.

Furthermore, to continue supporting women at their workplace, HBSC Bank Canada had arranged many popular networking events in 2006 in Vancouver and Montreal. They also organized mentoring programs for women to get to know other women workers outside of the Bank. All of these events were arranged to let women learn from the other women in higher positions who work outside of the bank. HBSC Bank Canada has 61.7% of women representatives.

In addition, HBSC Bank Canada says that they have many visible minorities working at all levels within the organization. HBSC Bank Canada states that they have a very diverse workplace in terms of ethnicity, race, and world experiences. Through this, they understand and fulfill the needs of their customers, and provide great customer service. They have 36% of visible minorities in their workplace.

Therefore, HBSC Bank Canada does strongly support women and minorities in the workplace. HBSC Bank Canada has a policy to support violence, discrimination, and harassment in the workplace. Not only do they help out their community and their customers, but they also arrange events to help their employees advance in their jobs regardless of what gender they are or what minority group they’re from.
Although the glass ceiling is a major problem, there are ways to prevent it. Women and minorities aren’t the only people who can prevent the glass ceiling. Management can also take many actions to avoid it. People usually try to break the glass ceiling after it happens or while it is happening. Even though this might solve the problem, it is better to think about how to prevent the glass ceiling ahead of time.

Moreover, women and minorities should first start off by having strong relationships with the people in their workplace. The employees should find out how they can eliminate and how to deal with the glass ceiling if it happens. Women and minorities should know their basic rights in the workplace. This will help women recognize any barriers and they will also understand how to deal with it.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has information about the laws that forbid this type of discrimination. Knowing what the laws are against the glass ceiling before deciding to go to work will allow people to know what might occur later on. Therefore, they can learn what to do in order to avoid it. Another way to prevent the glass ceiling is by women and minorities showing management their capabilities. This means that women and minorities should work hard and create a good image for themselves and for other women and minorities.

By working hard and creating a good image, they will be able to keep their job and prove that women and minorities are also capable of doing jobs that management assumes only men can do. This will also give them a chance for advancement. Being educated is another way to prevent the glass ceiling. Women and minorities should be educated about this type of discrimination so that they know the effects of it, and they can try to avoid themselves from getting into that position.

In addition, the employees and management also have the responsibility of preventing the glass ceiling. The management should support women and minorities at all times. Management can prevent the glass ceiling by making it a company policy which clearly states that it is not allowed and what the consequences will be if it does happen. If the top management of an organization becomes a good role model for their organization, this can also prevent the glass ceiling. Employers can arrange affirmative action programs.

This will prevent discrimination against women and minorities. Management should offer rewards to managers who successfully meet the goals which can include treating both genders equally, by giving managers promotions, pay raises and etc. Not only should women and minorities be educated about the glass ceiling, management should also be educated about the glass ceiling. This will allow them to know the consequences of this type of discrimination and it might give them a chance to fix their mistakes. By learning about the glass ceiling, management will know the position that women and minorities are in, which will allow them to break the glass ceiling.

Therefore, there are many ways to prevent the glass ceiling. If women, minorities, and the management take the time to learn about it then it might be possible to break the glass ceiling. Although women are doing better at their workplaces and are now in higher positions, the glass ceiling still exists in some places. An article mentioned that recently people do not realize if the glass ceiling is present at their company. So, management should take everything into consideration and change their business’s policies and procedures (if there is discrimination).
Now that the laws related to the glass ceiling, how often it occurs, the companies that are against the glass ceiling is understood and the prevention of it, it is time to break the glass ceiling.

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Breaking the glass ceiling is an international business issue. It is also an issue for women working in the family and their family members. Over the years women have learned to become more independent, educated, competitive, and determined and this meant more opportunities in the workplace. With the demanding challenges, women postpone marriage and having children because they hardly have personal time for themselves. The way the glass ceiling will affect the family is that the women won’t be able to support their family if they aren’t able to make enough money.

In 1995, a study done by the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission found that 97% of the senior managers of the Fortune 1000 Industrial and Fortune 500 are white, and 95-97% are male. While only 57% of the workforce is minorities, woman, or both. The study also found that African, Hispanic (Latino), and Asian Americans do not earn the same amount of work (when they do the same type of work as the white workers). African-American earnings are 21% less than the white workers in the same job.

There are many ways to deal with the glass ceiling. Many women and minority groups must realize they must not be equally qualified but they must be more qualified than their competition for promotions. Although it’s unfair, there is no other choice. When management doesn’t take any action women and minorities can. If women and minorities have clear evidence that they haven’t received promotions because of their race or gender, then they can go to court.

Women and minorities must also find out what their company values are. If the company’s management does not have any minorities or women, then it is a bad sign.

If there is no clear evidence (to go to court) and the company does not have values or procedures regarding the glass ceiling, then women and minorities should apply to other companies. It is better to work for a company that appreciates the work of everyone and rewards them rather than promoting people based on their individual characteristics. Companies that do not recognize their values will eventually learn and realize that they must change.

The media and the government play an important role in eliminating the glass ceiling. The government can reinforce the laws and policies because some companies may not be aware of the relevant information related to the glass ceiling. The media should review their coverage for adequate diversity representation, and reward the media organizations which will create positive images of women and minorities. Education systems must influence diversity for the future generation by culture-awareness programs such as multicultural shows, giving students specific career counselling and so on.

Recommendations for the management of organizations include: developing an organizational culture that promotes women and minorities, incorporate workforce diversity into business plans, and businesses should have affirmative action. By including women and minorities, businesses will gain more ideas and fresh perspectives for business plans and future success.

Companies would also stop hiring unqualified workers and start hiring more dependable and goal-oriented workers. Organizations must find workers inside and outside of the company, and they should search for universities and colleges. Businesses must also train the workforce about ethnic, gender, and racial diversity. Family-friendly policies help employees have a good work-life balance. Employees should be hired based on the qualifications of the person and not the appearance.

There are many organizations which are against the glass ceiling, and they are willing to help companies eliminate it and become aware of the issue. An organization called Break the Glass Ceiling Foundation can help companies in presentations about diversity, and diversity training for management and the employees. It can also help build diversity awareness and much more diversity-related programs.

With a serious commitment to diversity, eventually, we will have a better workforce in every organization. If companies do not take action, we will make the glass ceiling turn into a concrete ceiling. It does not only create a loss for women and minorities but for the businesses as well. Take action now and be amazed!


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