Glass Ceilings and Dead Ends
Not all promotions are upward movement. Appearances can be deceiving. Sure, you're a step above where you were yesterday. But where is that step taking you? One of the harsh realities managers face is diminishing opportunity. There are simply fewer positions at the top. Competition for them can be fierce and sometimes unfair.
The term “glass ceiling” came into use in the 1970s, in the early days of women's push for equal opportunity in the workplace. It defines a “lip service” approach in which the promotion looks like a major leap up the corporate ladder but in reality is the top of the ladder for the person. Like watching the activity above through a glass window, opportunities exist but are out of reach. The general premise of the glass ceiling is that its basis is in personal factors other than the person's qualifications, such as gender, race, or ethnicity. Though federal laws in the United States make such discrimination illegal, the glass ceiling remains a fixture in the American corporate culture.
A dead-end promotion similarly has no future, though it's more like a wall than a window. There's usually little question that the promotion leads to nowhere. Perhaps the company is small and upward movement can carry managers only a short way along their career paths. Moving up, in such circumstances, means moving out. Sometimes the “dead end” exists within the person, such as when skill needs change within an industry. A person might be highly qualified in the old ways but lacks the education or knowledge to participate in the new ways. Often we see such walls at times of sea change in a particular industry or following a significant advance in technology. Computer technology, for example, continues to create dead ends even as much as it generates opportunities. Dead-end promotions are not usually personal but rather reflect changes in the ways of doing business.
According to a 2005 Gallup poll, 53 percent of Americans believe men and women have equal opportunities for jobs and promotions. However, the 2000 U.S. Census reports that women continue to earn less money for comparable work — 81 cents for every dollar a man earns.