You can't see it, but it's real: Glass ceiling is solid

November 02, 1999

A University of Cincinnati sociologist's analysis, published in the November issue of "Work and Occupations," shatters any doubts about a "glass ceiling" holding back African Americans and women from promotions into management. In addition, the study confirms that white men not only don't face a glass ceiling, they enjoy the benefits of a so-called glass escalator that enhances their career mobility in female-dominated professionals.

Using a statistical-prediction model similar to those used by physicians who study the effects of drugs in the treatment of diseases, David J. Maume, Jr., director of UC's Kunz Center for the Study of Work and Family, analyzed work histories in female-dominated fields (1981-87), using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a set of data on American households and workers across all professions. He studied female dominated fields because so few women are part of male-dominated fields that it would render the statistical model invalid.

Based on his projections, he found that 44 percent of men have been promoted after 12 years on the job, in contrast to just 15 percent of white women, 7 percent of black women, and 17 percent of black men. He controlled for other variables that could explain this preference for men in promotions -- such as years of experience in the field, educational background, age, marital and family status, hours worked, cognitive skills -- but found only one reason could account for the differences in promotion rates: discrimination.

According to Maume, research on the issue until now has been limited to a small set of professions, making his data unique because it examines a national sample of the U.S. labor force. The sample included more than 3,000 individuals between the ages of 18 and 62. Self-employed workers and members of the armed forces were excluded.

University of Cincinnati

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