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The systemic discrimination (likened to a physical barrier) against certain groups in the workplace, especially women, that prevents them from advancing. Many people believe that a glass ceiling exists within the tech industry because not many women hold prominent positions in the field.
An unacknowledged discriminatory barrier to advancement, especially for women and minorities. For example, Harriet knew she'd never be promoted-she would never get through the glass ceiling. [1980s]
the glass ceiling
COMMON If you talk about the glass ceiling, you mean the opinions and attitudes which prevent people, especially women, from being given the most important jobs. At the age of 43 she became the highest ranking woman officer in the country, only to find she'd hit the glass ceiling. A woman judge has at last succeeded in breaking through the glass ceiling into the Court of Appeal, the second highest court in the land.
An invisible barrier to promotion. This term was born in the women’s movement of the 1970s, when it became clear that in many organizations and businesses discrimination barred women and minorities from advancing beyond a certain point. It is well on its way to clichédom.