Is It Breaking a Glass Ceiling or an Ice Pond?

Loujaine AlMoallim, Women’s Leadership Editor

Should metaphors that are used regularly be taken at face value or are they misleading?

Glass ceiling is a term coined back in 1979 by two women that worked at Hewlett-Packard. It describes the roadblocks facing women and other minority groups when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder. It is true that even now in 2022 the world is not where it should be when it comes to having female leaders in senior management positions. As the 2021 Women in the Workplace report states, women make up 30% at the Vice President (VP) level, 27% at the Senior Vice President (SVP) level and 24% at the C-Suite level. This does show an  increase of 6%, 14% and 27% for VP, SCP and C-suite levels respectively from 2016 to 2021, which is a great improvement, but there is still a long way to go. My disagreement is with the statement that women are not reaching those senior positions because of the glass ceiling. Is it really a glass ceiling that is the issue here? 

From my perspective, if a woman breaks the glass ceiling when reaching an executive position, that would equate to the glass being shattered. Therefore, other women that are following in the first woman’s footsteps can breeze through the shattered glass. They would potentially not need to work as hard or with the same determination as that first woman who shattered the glass. However, that sequence of thought does not make sense with the way our world is right now.  Even though gender discrimination is illegal in the US, gender stereotyping is very much still present in the corporate world due to deep routed perceptions of societal norms. So, I believe that when a female breaks the glass ceiling she is merely doing so for herself, and it is only a crack in other females’ glass ceilings. It becomes more acceptable for women to overcome a roadblock to crack her own glass ceiling if someone has done it before, but it does not mean that it will be any easier.

In conclusion, I believe the glass ceiling is more of an ice pond, once an individual gets out, the ice quickly starts to close up again. 

Loujaine (MBA ’24 ) is a Saudi Arabian who spent most of her formative years in Canada. After completing her undergraduate degree at McGill University majoring in International Management, she moved back to Saudi Arabia and worked in Consulting. She enjoys traveling and exploring new places, hosting people over for small gatherings and baking and decorating cakes.