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.
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.
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
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.