What is the Difference Between Glass Ceilings and Glass Walls?

by Douglas Hawk; Updated September 26, 2017
Glass walls and ceilings address upward and lateral mobility in the corporate world.

The proverbial glass ceiling has been used for many years to describe the difficulty women and minorities have faced moving upward in the corporate environment. The metaphorical glass wall describes the difficulty women and minorities have moving laterally within corporations.

Glass Ceiling

Glass ceilings obstruct the rise of women and minorities in the corporate environment.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 authorized the Glass Ceiling Commission, which was designed to address the obstacles by women and minorities attempting upward mobility in the corporate environment. The Department of Labor found in 1987 that only two percent of women held top level corporate management positions and only five percent of corporate boards comprised women. Minority figures were not much better.

Glass Walls

Glass walls obstruct women and minorites seeking a learn various facets of the business.

Within the corporate environment, it is generally understood that to rise upward, a person needs to first be able to move laterally from department to department to learn the business. When barriers are created to block women and minorities from moving laterally the invisible obstruction is the “glass wall.”

Importance of Equity

Moving women into top executive positions is good for business.

Beyond simple equity for women and minorities, breaking glass walls and the glass ceiling is good for business. The nonprofit research organization Catalyst found that corporations with more women in top executive positions do better than corporations with fewer women in those positions.

About the Author

Douglas Hawk has been freelance writing since 1983. He has had articles appear in numerous Colorado newspapers and in a wide variety of national magazines. Hawk has sold three novels and one short story, which won an award from the Colorado Authors' League. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Adams State College and master's degree in mass communications from the University of Denver.

Photo Credits

  • woman dressed in business suit image by PP_PHOTO from Fotolia.com