12 Ways to shatter the Barrier

on Wednesday, 23 May 2012. Posted in Articles on Leadership / Gender

12 Ways to shatter the Barrier
The Glass Ceiling Commission, USA Department of Labor
12 Ways to Shatter the Barriers

Summary of Recommendations


  1. 1.Demonstrate CEO commitment: Eliminating the glass ceiling requires that the CEO communicate visible and continuing commitment to workforce diversity throughout the organization. The Commission recommends that all CEOs and boards of directors set companywide policies that actively promote diversity programs and policies that remove artificial barriers at every level.

  1. Include diversity in all strategic business plans and hold line managers accountable for progress: Businesses customarily establish short- and long-term objectives and measure progress in key business areas. The Commission recommends that all corporations include in their strategic business plans efforts to achieve diversity both at the senior management level and throughout the workforce. Additionally, performance appraisals, compensation incentives and other evaluation measures must reflect a line manager’s ability to set a high standard and demonstrate progress toward breaking the glass ceiling.

  2. Use affirmative action as a tool: Affirmative action is the deliberate undertaking of positive steps to design and implement employment procedures that ensure the employment system provides equal opportunity to all. The Commission recommends that corporate America use affirmative action as a tool ensuring that all qualified individuals have equal access and opportunity to compete based on ability and merit.

  3. Select, promote and retain qualified individuals: Traditional prerequisites and qualifications for senior management and board of director positions focus too narrowly on conventional sources and experiences. The Commission recommends that organizations expand their vision and seek candidates from non-customary sources, backgrounds and experiences, and that the executive recruiting industry work with businesses to explore ways to expand the universe of qualified candidates.

  4. Prepare minorities and women for senior positions: Too often, minorities and women find themselves channeled into staff positions that provide little access and visibility to corporate decisionmakers, and removed from strategic business decisions. The Commission recommends that organizations expand access to core areas of the business and to various developmental experiences, and establish formal mentoring programs that provide career guidance and support to prepare minorities and women for senior positions.

  5. Educate the corporate ranks: Organizations cannot make members of society blind to differences in color, culture or gender, but they can demand and enforce merit-based practice and behavior internally. The Commission recommends that companies provide formal training at regular intervals on company time to sensitize and familiarize all employees about the strengths and challenges of gender, racial, ethnic and cultural differences.

  6. Initiate work/life and family-friendly policies: Work/life and family-friendly policies, although they benefit all employees, are an important step in an organization’s commitment to hiring, retaining and promoting both men and women. The Commission recommends that organizations adopt policies that recognize and accommodate the balance between work and family responsibilities that impact the lifelong career paths of all employees.

  7. Adopt high performance work-place practices: There is a positive relationship between corporate financial performance, productivity and the use of high performance workplace practices. The Commission recommends that all companies adopt high performance workplace practices, which fall under the categories of skills and information; participation, organization and partnership; and compensation, security and work environment.



9. Lead by example: Government at all levels must be a leader in the quest to make equal opportunity a reality for minorities and women. The Commission recommends that all government agencies, as employers, increase their efforts to eliminate internal glass ceilings by examining their practices for promoting qualified minorities and women to senior management and decisionmaking positions.


10. Strengthen enforcement of anti-discrimination laws: Workplace discrimination presents a significant glass ceiling barrier for minorities and women. The Commission recommends that Federal enforcement agencies increase their efforts to enforce existing laws by expanding efforts to end systemic discrimination and challenging multiple discrimination. The Commission also recommends evaluating effectiveness and efficiency and strengthening interagency coordination as a way of furthering the effort. Additionally, updating anti-discrimination regulations, strengthening and expanding corporate management reviews and improving the complaint processing system play major roles in ending discrimination. Finally, the Commission recommends making sure that enforcement agencies have adequate resources to enforce anti-discrimination laws.

11. Improve data collection: Accurate data on minorities and women can show where progress is or is not being made in breaking glass ceiling barriers. The Commission recommends that relevant government agencies revise the collection of data by refining existing data categories and improving the specificity of data collected. All government agencies that collect data must break it out by race and gender, and avoid double counting of minority women, in order to develop a clear picture of where minorities and women are in the workforce.

12. Increase disclosure of diversity data: Public disclosure of diversity data — specifically, data on the most senior positions — is an effective incentive to develop and maintain innovative, effective programs to break glass ceiling barriers. The Commission recommends that both the public and private sectors work toward increased public disclosure of diversity data.


Excerpts of the Report: "A Solid Investment: Making Full Use of the Nation's Human Capital"

The Glass Ceiling Commission, USA Dept of Labor, ILR Catherwood Library, Cornell University, USA