I’ve always been slightly sceptical about the concept of the ‘glass ceiling’. It’s not that I don’t recognise the hidden barriers that exist for people from non white, non male backgrounds and prevent them from rising to the top of organisations. The evidence that shows this is incontrovertible; although the situation is improving.
Instead, one objection to the term is that it just seems a bit definitive. After all, if there was a ‘glass ceiling’ we’d have no women or people from black or ethnic minority backgrounds in senior management; and whilst we don’t have enough there are definitely some.
The other objection I have to the glass ceiling concept is that when referred to (usually in the short-hand rather than academic versions) it occurs at just the moment that the amount of available jobs shrinks. We have maybe seventy service managers in my local authority; maybe twenty senior managers and four directors. If we were to place the ‘glass ceiling’ at the senior management level that would represent just 1% of all staff in the local authority. You can see this two ways; firstly you could argue that it is only natural that discrimination shows up at that level as this is where it matters most. This is probably right and has been written about in plenty of other places.
However, I am interested in something else which seems more self evident than the glass ceiling:
Of course some staff will find it difficult to progress when the number of available jobs at the next level shrinks so quickly (hundreds into seventy; seventy into twenty; twenty into four; four into one).
I have taken to referring to this problem as the glass bottleneck.