an upper limit to professional advancement, especially as imposed upon women, that is not readily perceived or openly acknowledged.
a situation in which progress, esp promotion, appears to be possible but restrictions or discrimination create a barrier that prevents it

An unacknowledged — and ultimately illegal — barrier to advancement, especially for women and people of color: “In many professions a woman cannot break through the glass ceiling to the upper level of management.” The term dates from the 1980s.

noun phrase

A solid but invisible barrier against women’s advancement in business and other institutions: Women could all stop wearing lipstick and blusher tomorrow, and I doubt it would help them break through the glass ceiling/ the sound of glass ceilings breaking as women empowered by the Clinton Administration rise to new positions of influence (1990+)
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 ]


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