Why I’m tired of the glass ceiling analogy


In a couple of hours, it will be International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month so this post seems apropos. I’ve seen the image I used for this post several times in the last year or two and posted about it on Instagram last year.

I think it’s time we stop talking so much about women smashing glass ceilings. The glass ceiling concept was first popularized in a 1986 Wall Street Journal article discussing the corporate hierarchy and how invisible barriers seemed to be preventing women from advancing in their careers past a certain level.

Do I think the problems are all fixed and everyone is treated equal in the marketplace? Nope. Far from it. But this image seems to represent the way our challenges have evolved better than the idea of a glass ceiling. Here’s why:

It’s no longer invisible

A wall shows a barrier that can be eventually identified, assessed, and overcome. It\’s a barrier, not an invisible cage. A wall also presents different challenges for each person whereas a glass ceiling seems to always imply the challenges are the same flat problem for everyone.

Helping not smashing

In the image, I see women using their unique strengths along each part of the journey helping each other. The idea of glass ceilings being smashed doesn\’t speak to that.

More importantly to me and my experience, the idea of smashing glass ceilings means the women down below can only come up one by one. And then, only who the woman above her gets out of the way to let her rise.

Who gets hurt?

Another problem I have with the glass ceiling mentality is the glass itself. In the analogy, one has to wonder who all is being cut as the pieces fall away. I\’ve been more hurt and had to overcome more from women who were supposedly supporting their fellow women than by men who seem to get all the blame for our problems. And on the other side, I\’ve had some of my greatest success because of people, including women, using their power and voice to remove barriers for me.

I didn\’t care to smash any more glass ceilings. I want to help people not only overcome barriers but to remove them. Join me?

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