What is the Difference Between Glass Ceilings and Glass Walls?

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Glass walls and ceilings address upward and lateral mobility in the corporate world.
Glass walls and ceilings address upward and lateral mobility in the corporate world. (Image: woman dressed in business suit image by PP_PHOTO from Fotolia.com)

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

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 ceilings obstruct the rise of women and minorities in the corporate environment.
Glass ceilings obstruct the rise of women and minorities in the corporate environment. (Image: business woman image by Kurhan from Fotolia.com)

Glass Walls

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.”

Glass walls obstruct women and minorites seeking a learn various facets of the business.
Glass walls obstruct women and minorites seeking a learn various facets of the business. (Image: woman working on a laptop computer image by Julia Britvich from Fotolia.com)

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.

Moving women into top executive positions is good for business.
Moving women into top executive positions is good for business. (Image: business woman image by Kurhan from Fotolia.com)

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