Glass Ceilings and Glass Escalator- an unfair practice or an inevitability

Any_Questions_About_Your_Work_-_posterIn  a previous post called Mum’s the word I raised the issue of work practice imbalances created by the needs of mothers/fathers to take care of their children. I received a comment from dragonladysa (a blog well worth following) raising the issue of pay and gender inequalities for women seeking a career. I had already planned to do a post on this topic as a follow up to Mum’s the word, but her comments got me thinking, how fair is it to allow such inequalities, and in an environment where staff shortages and restructuring is almost mandatory, can such a problem be cured.

So it was that I began doing some research, and though I will not be covering the topic in as much detail as others ,it is an area that I will be covering here.

I want to make one thing clear though The fact that I  wont be going into as much detail as others sites and bodies is not a reflection as to the importance with which I regard this issue. It is simply a case of time availability, but reference links at the end post will guide to sites where such topics are covered in full.

So let us begin with a few definitions for terms that will occur in this post

Glass ceilings In economics, the term glass ceiling refers to situations where the advancement of a qualified person within the hierarchy of an organization is stopped at a lower level because of some form of discrimination, most commonly sexism or racism, but since the term was coined, “glass ceiling” has also come to describe the limited advancement of the deaf, blind, disabled, and aged.The “Glass Ceiling” is distinguished from formal barriers to advancement, such as education or experience requirements.
Glass Escalators A glass escalator normally refers to the unofficial fast tracking of certain employees within an organisation. This unofficially bar for promotion is applied to prevent any side ward movement within certain type of staffs. Glass escalator is mainly done to address gender balance issues where certain jobs are assigned to certain genders.
Occupational sexism includes any discriminatory practices or statements based on a person’s sex.

There are many more areas and terms, but for the purposes of this discussion, they will serve us well.

So to business, should inequality occur in the workplace, based on gender, age, or perceived disability-see post Disabled or Differently abled-a new way of thinking.

The quick and most pleasant answer is no.

I  an ideal world there should be no inequality, everybody should be paid the same money for the same work, there should be equal career prospects for everybody, and equal assistance should be given to all employees so that they might enjoy and develop their life both inside and outside the workplace to the full.

How many of us live and work in such a world though?

Very few of us I suspect. It is  a world that we would LIKE to live in, but for most of us the world is different. How many of employees have seen restructuring and workload increases where they work? How many middle managers are told by Senior managers to cut staffing to the bone, how many Senior managers live in fear of their C.E.O, and how many C.E.O’S worry about their shareholders? That is the reality for most of I suspect, and sadly it almost inevitably impacts on certain types of employee.

To understand this try and put yourself in the mind of a non sexist, genuinely equal opportunity believing section manager who has been told to keep maintain or increase the sections performance levels and profitability, but cut staffing levels and overheads to the bone. what might he or she be thinking about as they try and juggle both sets of demands at the same time

On a positive note the following benefits may well cross their minds

  1. positive role models for up and coming women workers
  2. diversity of thought and attitude in the workplace
  3. an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to gender equality and equal opportunity
  4. The maximization of all human resources
  5. A chance to roll out a section development program where individually tailored plans are available to all

Very good, but what of the managers concerns

  1. potential pregnancy, maternity cover, and post birth childcare requirements
  2. potential staff shortages and loss of productivity
  3. Drop in section performance and profitability due to 1. 2.
  4. lost training and employee training programs benefits due to post birth prioritization and commitments
  5. resentment of co-workers at additional workload
  6. A nasty Email from senior management etc about all of the above

Who would like to be in the managers shoes. He or she may appreciate the benefits within society of mothers and mothers to be in the workplace, both emotional and for the broader economy, but when times get tough what comes first. The long and short term development of your particular section or company, or the higher ideals within society that any fair minded person would like to see rolled out to one and all.

I would love to live in an ideal world where there was equal opportunity and pay for everyone. I would love to live in a world where there was no hunger, no poverty, no racism, sexism, and religious intolerance. Finally I would love to live in a world where all stereotyping and blind/negative reinforcement patterns were confined to the dustbins of history, but where is such a world to be found.

By the continuation of glass ceilings, poorly structured glass elevators, and occupational sexism practices we lose skills and knowledge which could be and should be so usefully deployed, but sadly, and I do mean sadly, I cannot see how such problems can be resolved.

As I said though, this is just my own personal opinion, and I would love others to show me that there is both real hope, and that my views are wrong,

Thank you for listening, and thank you, in advance, for maybe taking my views on board.

Any comments  anyone; any views?

Reference Sites ( from

Women in the workplace

Inequalities at work

Family and Gender Issues

Gender inequality in the classroom

Gender inequality in politics

Job discrimination

Gender inequality in health care

You might also be interested to compare the two videos below


Categories: Growing pains, Reality Checks, Site information

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2 replies

  1. It is like the idea of Communism. It is a really good concept, but is not logically feasible. We have a complete opposite movement happening in Africa where people who are able to do the jobs are overlooked for less suitable candidates based on policies that are enforced by the government. These policies were brought into force to give previously disadvantaged groups a helping hand. It is as if the more we try and help the more we harm! The more equal we try to make it the more the scale tips out of balance. (TY for the mention Chris!)


    • That’s interesting what you say about Africa, and in some ways it is the same here. We also have the situation of having mentally or physically affected individuals placed along side other workers within a workplace. This is a great idea in so many respects as such individuals need employment and bring different skills to the workplace, but in reality it also causes difficulties. In the past a dual set of tracks were in place so that workers with different abilities could work at their own speed. Now it is different and with restructuring and staff cuts being the norm, everyone find themselves on a single track working line. The effect is similar to trying to run an express train and a slower goods train on the same track bed with no leeway as regards time or speed. I still refuse to see such workers as “handicapped” or “disabled though, for, as I stated they enrich a workplace environment because of their different way of thinking and their different point of view. Problems though, real life problems as regards running an operation do occur


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