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Glass Walls Support Glass Ceiling

Newsletter • volume 1 • number 8

While women and people of diverse backgrounds have been pounding on the infamous glass ceiling, glass walls have been built up around them.

A study presented by the Department of Labor, entitled the Glass Ceiling Initiative, reports that only 6.6% of corporate executives are women and a mere 2.6% are people of color.

The reason most often cited for denying employees upper level management positions is a lack of line experience. However, invisible yet impenetrable walls are keeping women and minorities from gaining that elusive line status by limiting them to stereotypical staff positions. Especially prone to dead-ends are "support" departments such as public relations, human resources and accounting.

The majority of people in upper-level management positions have substantial line management experience. However, employees who are promoted in staff departments never have the opportunity to gain the valuable line experience so necessary to the progress of their careers.

Companies are challenging these glass walls by offering employees career development and mentoring programs. These programs expand the experience levels and networking capabilities of target employees, thereby making them more "cross-functional."

Some companies are identifying high performance women and minorities and establishing a development plan for these individuals. The Human Resources staff makes sure that managers keep to the scheduled development of identified staff members. Du Pont Co., for example, is offering a rotation process which moves men and women through two or three different job functions before they reach a top position.

Employers that allow glass walls to remain intact are missing out on the optimum utilization of their greatest asset ­ their employees.