What is the Glass Wall Effect?

by Brenton Shields; Updated September 26, 2017

It’s no secret that in business hierarchies, some people are more fortunate than others; some get promoted while others stay at the middle or even the bottom of the positional ladder. This inability to rise in rank may not be a result of inexperience or lack of capabilities, many activists claim, but rather other factors like gender or race. This school of thought deals with what is known as the Glass Wall effect.

Basics

The Glass Wall effect shares many similarities with the Glass Ceiling effect. The “Glass Ceiling” is a metaphor for an invisible barrier that prevents women and minorities from moving up in rank within a business infrastructure despite their capabilities and credentials. Instead, these jobs, as many argue, are given to men who may not be as qualified, as indicated by the vast disparity between men and women in high-ranking jobs.

Glass Wall Vs. Glass Ceiling

The Glass Ceiling refers to a metaphorical barrier blocking a woman or minority who is in a position within a company to move up. The Glass Wall is slightly different; it represents a barrier preventing a woman or minority from moving to a position that has a promotional ladder. In other words, instead of simply blocking a woman or minority’s potential rise, the Glass Wall effect works laterally, taking away the very opportunity for the said group to be promoted.

Features

Several features have been attributed to the makeup of this metaphorical Glass Wall, with similar traits being found within the concept of the Glass Ceiling. They include different pay, typically far lower for women than for men, despite the same amount of work and skill involved; exclusion from networks and groups; and harassment within the workplace.

Concrete Wall

The Concrete Wall is a term used to describe the lack of promotion within the female minority demographic. Being both a minority and a female, according to the concrete wall effect, impairs one’s ability to reach a job with promotional potential vastly more than being a Caucasian female does. It takes the lack of opportunity for both women for minorities into account, making the Glass Wall increase in strength two-fold.

Modern Usage

The Glass Wall effect is a relatively new concept, with its parent, the Glass Ceiling effect, dating back to 1979. It is used today in association with another term, the Sticky Floor effect, and some can argue that the two conditions are inherently interchangeable. The Sticky Floor effect refers to women trapped in a low-paying job with no opportunity for advancement, which is a definition nearly identical to that of the Glass Wall effect.

About the Author

Brenton Shields began writing professionally in 2009. His work includes film reviews that appear for the online magazine Los Angeles Chronicle. He received a Bachelor of Science in social science and history from Radford University.