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Glass Ceiling and Glass Cliff

The glass ceiling and the glass cliff are metaphors that point to discriminatory obstacles to the professional upward mobility of qualified women or other minorities, regardless of their actual performances. This entry defines these concepts, gives research illustrations of the phenomena and their causes, and points to real-life examples.

Overview

Despite half of the world population being female, only 6.6% of heads of state worldwide were women in 2015. Although the percentage of women increases at lower levels of the hierarchy (e.g., 22% for members of parliament [MPs] worldwide in 2014), gender parity in positions of responsibility is an exception. Similarly, ethnic minorities’ representations rarely correspond to the average population makeup. Numbers on ethnic minorities’ representation are hard to aggregate because the definition of who may be ...

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