Glass ceiling is basically a metaphor which is put to use to symbolize an intangible barrier that keeps from a given demographic from rising beyond a certain level in the hierarchy. Women And Glass Ceiling: An Illusion Or Reality It is not new that we have realised that the gender “women” are discriminated and underestimated on the basis… Read More »

Glass ceiling is basically a metaphor which is put to use to symbolize an intangible barrier that keeps from a given demographic from rising beyond a certain level in the hierarchy.

Women And Glass Ceiling: An Illusion Or Reality

It is not new that we have realised that the gender “women” are discriminated and underestimated on the basis of gender. Just because they are women they are denied opportunities because of preconceived notions that have existed for ages. This practice of denial of equal opportunities is not restricted to any country; it has been a universal mindset.

However, women have proved to the world they are no less and can juggle any task with their personal and professional life effortlessly. Social media has been the greatest factor in spreading awareness amongst the masses regarding the same.

The sheer aim of writing this article is that women are denied opportunities and yes glass ceiling exists but gender equality is a human struggle, not a female struggle masses often perceive them as the same, but there is a fine line of difference.

“Teach Your Daughters To Worry Less About Fitting Into Glass Slippers And More About Shattering Glass Ceilings”

Gender Equality besides being a fundamental right[1] is a societal necessity for achieving peace, utmost human potential and sustainable development. Statistics show that empowering women spur up productivity and economic growth. Women really are a wonder – one lifetime and still they manage to play various roles even after so much gender bias. Women are underestimated and underrated. Sadly there’s a long way to achieve a state where men and women are considered equals.

However flipping through the rich history of our country we can divide the evolution of gender equality through three stages in the history namely Ancient, Medieval and Modern. Ancient history shows that women were considered actually equal to men there was no such sign of discrimination amongst genders they used to actually work with men shoulder to shoulder no job was gender-specific women carried out all chores they were practically worshipped, treated well gravely respected.

The transition happened during the Medieval period when the Mughal influence [2]cast a spell on the societal functioning of the country and the parda system was introduced that women should cover their heads(little did they realised that they just didn’t cover their heads and under that hood, an identity, a voice which could have made a difference but men oppressed their wives and daughters) and their authority lies only within the walls of the house and their job was only to carry out all the household chores and bring up children.

Daughter’s syllabus of education consisted of the methods and procedures of carrying out household chores and training them for when they got married. The men and boys were given the power of authority to take major decisions, beat their wives when they didn’t listen or even tried to voice their opinion.

Well the Modern times i.e. the post-independence period [3]to current there’s an array of assortment of gender equality opinions and thoughts. The constitution ensures one thing while the tongues of many say another.

Glass ceiling is basically a metaphor which is put to use to symbolize an intangible barrier that keeps from a given demographic from rising beyond a certain level in the hierarchy. The metaphor was first coined by feminists pointing in the direction of the barriers of high achieving women. In the United States, the term is used to refer to minority women and well as minority men.

It is all these facts that should make society realise that “Gender Equality Is A Human Fight Not A Female Fight”.

According to the United States Federal Glass Ceiling Commission [4]glass ceiling is an intangible barrier that prevents women from rising up the corporate ladder no matter what their qualifications are, just because they are women they are held back.

Glass ceiling inequality symbolizes the following:-

  • Gender or racial difference which is not explained by other job-relevant features of the employee
  • Gender or racial difference that is greater at higher levels at an outcome than at lower levels of an outcome.
  • Gender or racial inequality in chances of advancement into higher levels not just proportions of each gender or race present at those higher levels.
  • Gender or racial inequality widens over the course of the career.

Researchers have observed that glass ceilings are in direct relation with gender. Women face a glass ceiling over the course of their career (white women as well as minority women). However, researchers digging did not provide them with evidence of a glass ceiling for African American men. This intangible barrier prohibits women from taking charge of the most powerful, prestigious and highest-grossing jobs at the workplace.

The mere thought that she’s a woman even in the “modern times” as we term it is still believed that if she’s married or has a family she won’t be able to give her best at high authority positions, even if she has never let her personal life imbalance her professional life, it is thought it is not her decision to make so a decision is assumed on behalf of her, creating an intangible barrier which we call as a glass ceiling.

Sometimes the concept of the glass ceiling is merged with the concept of gender equality, the glass ceiling is a metaphor for the struggles that women face as a result of the denial of equal opportunity but we all fail to realise that gender equality is not a female struggle it’s a human struggle.

Men are discriminated too, in so many cases false accusations are made against men as patriarchy has not only been a bad influence for women but also for men.

Equality in true sense shall prevail, with this hope in our hearts we all move forward and making the world a better place and freeing it from the orthodox shackles of the past which affect a beautiful future and do no good to the society.

Landmark Cases

Air India v. Nargesh Mirza[5]

This case in 1981 challenged the service regulation needing air hostesses to retire upon marriage, first child, age of 35 whichever event occurred first. Regulations 46 and 47 of the Air India Employees Service Regulations were challenged. There was a significant amount of disparities between male and female pay and promotional avenues of the in-flight cabin crew.

Regulation 46 – retirement age for flight pursers was 58 year but was expected to at the age of 35 or on marriage (if the marriage took place within 4 years of service) or first pregnancy whichever event occurred earlier.

Regulation 47 – a specified period could be extended subject to the absolute discretion of the managing director.

The constitutionality was challenged-

  • Article 14 states that the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of laws within the territory of India
  • Article 15(1) states that the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, gender, place of birth or any of them.
  • Article 16(2) states no citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, the residence of any of them, discriminated against in respect of any employment or office under the state

The struggle was a long one and the outcome of this case was a disappointing one as women were termed as a caregiver and more emphasis was given on family planning. This case is the epitome of the glass ceiling.

Sabrimala Temple Case [Indian Young Lawyers Association v. The State of Kerla][6]

Women of menstruating ages i.e. 10-50 years, it was associated with the vow of celibacy related to the deity worshipped, were denied access in the Sabrimala temple. This challenged the virtue of Article 25 of the constitution which states the freedom to profess, propagate any religion.

The denial of entry of women sheerly shows patriarchal and partisan approach, denial of the entry is a violation of Article 15(1) which states no discrimination on the grounds of caste, creed, religion and gender. It curtails freedom as per Article 25(1) which states all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and right to freely profess, propagate and practice any religion. The classification based on age is an act of discrimination based on sex.

Prohibition of women’s entry to the shrine solely on the basis of women hood and biological features of women is derogatory, which Article 51A (e) aims to renounce.

Article 51A(e) states promotion of harmony and brotherhood amongst all people of India, religious, linguistic, regional, sectional diversities, renounces practices which are derogatory to the dignity of women. The case goes on till date.


Destroy the idea that men should respect women because of the gender; they should respect women because we are people and GLASS CEILING IS A REALITY which should be broken.

The idea that women and men are different should be changed to the fact that men and women are equal. Job opportunities do not provide fixed criteria that they are available for men or women they have simply set criteria on the sheer basis of educational qualifications and experience. So no gender can be discriminated against at workplace especially women who have broken the shackles of patriarchy with full force over the years.


Constitution of India for all the articles mentioned above

[1] Fundamental rights are a group of rights that have been recognised by the supreme court as requiring a high degree of protection from the government.

[2] Mughal influence here means the effect the Mughals had on the working of the society and their oppressive methods of treating women.

[3] Time period after 1947.

[4] Was formed by President George Bush, appointed a 21 member bipartisan party to identify and rectify barriers for women at workplace.

[5] 1981 AIR 1829

[6] (2019) 11 SCC 1

Women and Child Rights

Updated On 29 Sep 2020 5:58 AM GMT
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