Women’s Leadership Summit
IN M A R Y L A N D
March 1, 2006
A Presentation by Adrienne L. Mercer
“Glass ceiling” – a definition
An unofficial barrier to opportunities within
an organization or company which is
perceived to prevent protected classes of
workers, particularly women, from
advancing to higher positions.
The term was originally used by Carol
Hymowitz and Timothy Schellhardt in a
March 24,1986 Wall Street Journal article.
The term is distinguished from other barriers
to advancement such as education or
The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission -
The Commission was a 21-member bipartisan
body appointed by President Bush, as mandated
by the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
The goal of the Commission was to identify the
glass ceiling barriers that blocked the
advancement of minorities and women to decision
making positions in the private sector.
The Commission reported the following as
barriers to career advancement:
Inadequate recruitment practices.
Lack of opportunity to contribute to, and
participate in, corporate development programs.
Lack of top level ‘ownership’ of EEO principles.
The Commission’s report highlighted the following as
creative and effective strategies for providing access
to middle and upper management opportunities:
Carefully-monitored management development plans.
Increased emphasis on the recruitment of qualified minority
men and women of all races.
Initiation of scholarship programs for minority men and
women of all races pursuing technical degrees.
Implementation of corporate-wide diversity training and
Top management commitment to equal access to upper level
Note: The Commission’s report stated that only 5% of the
senior managers at Fortune 1000 companies were women.
This figure overlooked the fact that, of the qualified labor
pool, women were accurately reflected in those senior
management positions. This figure was not reflective of the
representation of management positions in the National
workforce. In actuality, though women represented 46% of
the U.S. labor force, women held about half of all
Since the Commission’s report was released, the number of
women in Fortune 500 senior management positions has
Question - Does this mean that (workplace)
discrimination against women is no longer an
Answer – NO.
While women have made dramatic gains in the
public, private and political arenas, formal legal
processes and protections are still necessary to
address discrimination and retaliation.
Question – If/since the glass ceiling exists,
what do we do about it?
There is no substitute for competence.
Don’t neglect to plan.
Identify you personal vision, mission, and goals.
Look for opportunities; do your research.
Don’t insist on overnight success. You may miss valuable lessons along the way.
Be Personable , Dependable, and Generous.
Good manners, friendliness, teamwork, excellence, grace, and forgiveness will never be out of style.
Integrity, trustworthiness, loyalty and a good sense of humor are invaluable.
Deliver the goods.
Be Teachable and a Teacher.
Understand the value of flexibility, mentors, and mentoring.
Be Introspective, Purposeful, and Soulful.
Understand your bent.
Find out what you like to do, and then do it.
Maintain balance. Count the cost.
Not to crack, force open or break the glass ceiling, but rather
to experience a graceful ascent based on choice, character,
commitment, creativity, and circumstances.
Not to aim for the ceiling, when the universe may be your