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Barriers to Promotion

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
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When it comes to the lack of women and minorities in senior-level positions, workplace experts often place the blame on a phenomenon known as the "glass-ceiling," a barrier that frequently stands in the way of their upward mobility.

Recent research, however, suggests other factors could be as much, if not more, to blame for the scarcity of women and minorities in the executive suite.

Zhen Zeng, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Demography and Ecology, contends in an article published in January in Social Science Research, that it is the "sticky-floor effect," in combination with downward mobility and an overall lack of diversity at senior levels, that creates the glass-ceiling effect.

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The "sticky-floor effect" refers to forces that prevent women and minorities from entering managerial hierarchies.

If organizations want to increase the number of women and minorities at the top, Zeng says, they should start at the bottom, since "relative to men, it is more difficult for women to get promoted into managerial ranks than it is for them to get promoted at the top once they enter the managerial ranks."

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