Leadership studies have long treated the leader as gender less or more precisely as male leader. The socio-economic changes call for diversity in the workplace. Around 865 million women will enter workforce by 2020.[1] Nowadays, women graduate at higher percentages then men still women earn less and hold fewer executive positions. In most developed countries, women are missing from the top of business corporations despite the fact that women make purchasing decisions as consumers, despite of the business diversity.

The glass ceiling is an invisible barrier or the resistance to the efforts of women to hold the ranks of top management in corporations. Some debates in the literature shows that women’s leadership styles differs to men’s and they have transformational leadership behaviour. The female leaders considers to be somewhat weaker in view of strategic thinking and developing a vision. In industries involving men selling to other men like mining & quarrying, construction etc. includes lowest percentages of female leaders. As of 2015 only 22% of senior roles are held by women, compared with 19% in 2004.

Glass Ceiling Effect and Its Impact on Women

Glass ceiling is a metaphor for informal barriers or invisible upper limit that keeps women from getting promotions, further opportunities or makes it impossible for the women to rise in the ranks. It is termed as glass because it’s not visible, and a woman may not be aware of its survival until she hits the barrier. In other words, it is those artificial barriers based on attitudinal or organizational bias that prevent qualified individuals from advancing upward in their organization into management-level positions.[2]

A report by the federal Glass Ceiling Commission in 2003 manifested that only 7-9% of upper management at firms were women. A alike study indicated that 97% of top executives at the same companies were white. Clearly, the effect is extremely persistent during all sorts of industries.[3] Many top male executives relish the status quo and enjoy their position of power and have biases against women who attempt to encroach on what they see as their territory. Other top male executives see the system as obsolete and unfair and actively endeavour to break the glass ceiling.

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

The international community has taken noteworthy steps in lifting out the people from poverty. Many developing nations are making inroads into poverty reduction. Inequality is a barrier to progress when it deprives the people of opportunity. Sustainable Development Goal 10 provides to the international community to make sure that the income growth of the bottom 40% of their population is higher than the national average by the year 2030. Making universal policies and paying attention to the disadvantaged groups helps in reduction of poverty.

The Government of India stressed on three pronged, i.e. Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile programmes intended for a complete strategy of inclusion, financial empowerment and social security.[4] These priorities are in line with the Sustainable Development targets meant to achieve equality and promoting social, economic, and political inclusion of all by 2030. The objectives of SDG 10 involves ensuring equal opportunities, declining inequalities by eliminating discriminatory laws, enhancing representation by the developing countries in decision making, promoting universal economic, social, political inclusion, adoption of policies for greater equality, etc. In 2016, 22% of global income was collected by the top 1% juxtaposed with 10% of income for the bottom 50%.[5]

Facilitators and Barriers to Women’s career advancement to Senior Leadership

  1. Organizational culture and leadership’s commitment to nurture female talent.
  2. Women helping other women or female empowerment as well as government intervention.
  3. Accepting the positive feminine qualities women bring to a leadership role.
  4. Women’s appearance may slightly facilitate career advancement, though the effect is very small as compared to men.

There are certain types of barriers to women’s career advancement to senior leadership like structural barriers or discrimination, gender roles and stereotypes, individual differences and deficiencies. The barriers are observed in both for profit and non-profit organizational contexts as well as in female entrepreneurship. There is lack of access to networks and organizational sponsorship and stress in coping the stereotypes undermines women’s performance, challenging men’s status quo invites resistance, undertaking jobs with high likelihood of failure. Modesty and invisibility undermines female career advancement. In some of the situations women itself acts as a barrier to other women like women’s biasness towards working mothers and gendered ageism.

Reasons for Glass Ceiling

There are existence of some obstacles in workplace that holds women back from accomplishing a superior position in the place of business as well as prevents her professional development.[6]

  1. Sexual Harassment – The first obstacle is the sexual harassment, while some companies will reprimand the offenders but it is rare that an offender will be fired for his misconduct. Many women are afraid to report when they know that no benefit can come from speaking up.
  2. Job Segregation – It is the another issue that is still common. Even when women secure jobs of somewhat higher ability, they are usually jobs that don’t lead to leadership positions.
  3. Lack of Anti Discrimination Enforcement – Workplace discrimination is absolutely a factor that contributes to the glass ceiling. Women and minorities are not considered for promotions or are paid less or fired because of their race, caste, gender, age, sexual orientation.[7]
  4. Cultural Stereotypes harm everyone – In a developing nation like India, stereotypes still exist and have a harmful or long lasting impact on career of women.

Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins[8] is a landmark case that serves as a major example of a glass ceiling’s existence in which U.S. Supreme Court held that that Hopkins had failed to meet the burden of proof that would have established that she was, in fact, discriminated against only because of her gender. The Court established the concept of a “mixed-motive” that may have been at play in an employment decision, eventually ruling in favour of Price Waterhouse.


The glass ceiling effect was first traced in the 1980s and have changed slightly in 20 years. Many organisations and socialists are working together on the condition. There are little top-level positions and the struggle is so severe, final hiring decisions perpetually come down to personal feelings. Reducing inequality at every level of the company can break the glass ceiling.[9] Women and minorities should be moderately represented in any employee development programs. Sensitive training to women should be provided. In other words, developing strength of gender-blind and colour-blind unity all through the company can aid for a long time by striking out stereotypes and biases. Now, the glass ceiling is tired and women are reinventing the game.

[1] 2014 Grant Thornton International Business Report: Women in Business.

[2] U.S. Department of Labour’s 1991 definition of the glass ceiling.

[3] Wall Street Journal’s Career Journal site by Paul Igasak in 2005.





[8] 490 U.S. 228 (1989)


Written By – Nikhil Mittal