The Glass Ceiling Commission

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

The Glass Ceiling Commission


In 1991, the U. S. Department of Labor defined glass ceiling as "those artificial barriers based on attitudinal or organizational bias that prevent qualified individuals from advancing upward in their organization into management-level positions." (Report on the Glass Ceiling Initiative. U. S. Department of Labor, 1991. Available in the Catherwood Library at HD 4903.5 U6 U585.) The department's Glass Ceiling Commission (1991-1996) studied these barriers not only as they apply to women, but as they apply to minorities as well.To view a range of papers by different authors as part of this initiative see: 

The Glass Ceiling Commission

The Glass Ceiling Commission was a 2l-member body appointed by the American President and Congressional leaders and chaired by the Secretary of Labor. Created as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Commission worked to identify glass ceiling barriers and expand practices and policies which promoted employment opportunities for the advancement of minorities and women into positions of responsibility in the private sector.It focused on barriers and opportunities in three areas: 1) the filling of management and decision making positions: 2) developmental and skill enhancing activities: and 3) compensation and reward systems. The study identified the differences and similarities in barriers confronting men and women of historically under-represented groups--African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Native Americans, Individuals with disabilities, White women, and women in low-paying occupations. The research examined the educational and developmental preparedness of minorities and women to advance to management and decision making positions. It did a comparative analysis of the economic sectors, industries, and businesses with regards to opportunities for minorities and women to upward mobility.

The economic consequences of glass ceiling and workforce diversity initiatives were explored, and the use of enforcement techniques in eliminating glass ceiling barriers were examined. The study looked at the impact of restructuring and downsizing on advancement opportunities and analyzed programs and practices which foster the progress of minorities and women. The Commission's findings and recommendations were submitted in a report to the President and the U.S. Congress.

The Commission in its introduction stated, "The "glass ceiling" is a concept that betrays America’s most cherished principles. It is the unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements. The American Dream is about opportunities for all. This country has drawn tens of millions of immigrants with the promise that all citizens could succeed if they worked hard and played by the rules. Yet, the glass ceiling denies millions of Americans opportunities for economic and personal advancement."The Commission undertook an extensive research and information gathering effort, including public hearings, surveys of CEOs and interviews with focus groups.

The Glass Ceiling Commission completed its mandate in January 1996. It no longer exists. The Commission's work culminated in 2 Reports which are shown below.Also listed below is the Report, "Pathways and Progress: Corporate Best Practices to Shatter the Glass Ceiling" which is the product of the Chicago Area Partnerships (CAPS). CAPS, a unique organizational model comprised of community, government and corporate representatives. In 1992 they created a forum to discuss and provide leadership on workplace issues in which they have a mutual interest.