Luckily, discussion of structural barriers to opportunity has been more widely discussed in the last couple decades. Those interested can, on a somewhat regular basis, spot articles in general interest news magazines and newspaper discussing the latest studies on promotion of women in executive positions and minority recruitment.
Along with more open discussion of past and current barriers to opportunity, many writers and sociologists alike have adopted terminology that is group specific, as a way to discuss the particular kinds of barriers that members of a particular group may face. Development of special group specific terminology is useful—it acknowledges that while many different marginalized groups face barriers to opportunity, the kinds of barriers they face may be different depending on their background, gender, education level, or their various privileges. To help you navigate current discussions on barriers to achievement, we have gathered some common and some not so common terms and phrases for you to learn about below.
The Glass Ceiling is a metaphor used to refer to the barriers that women—though sometimes this same metaphor is extended to cover racial minorities as well—face when seeking opportunities for advancement in the workplace. The idea behind the metaphor is that women encounter a kind of metaphorical glass ceiling, where they can see opportunities for promotion within their “employment track,” but there is an artificial barrier between merit-based promotions and actual promotion.
Learn more about the Glass Ceiling.
The Bamboo Ceiling refers to the barriers faced by Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in the equal opportunity race. Much like in the case of the Glass Ceiling, the Bamboo Ceiling describes the structural barriers the deny Asian Americans merit based promotions and access to opportunities purely on the basis of race.
Learn more about the Bamboo Ceiling.
The Glass Closet refers to the barriers that gay people face, usually in the workplace. Though studies show that more and more people have come out by the time they enter the workplace, many people feel the need to be closeted at work because of real or perceived biases against gay people. This occurs in no small part because of the prevailing assumption that all people are heterosexual until proven otherwise. This means that if you have not shared your sexual orientation with your superiors or colleagues then they will likely assume you are straight. Because of the underlying assumption that most people are straight, many people find themselves reentering the closet in the work context, even if they are fully out in their everyday life otherwise.
In the context of Good Old Boys Networks the pressure to conform to straight male stereotypes often makes disclosing that you are gay all the tougher. As you have already learned, a significant aspect of the Good Old Boys Network is asserting that you belong and that you are somehow like all the other people you want to associate with. This can be, as you can imagine, difficult to do if you do not fit the “model” straight member profile.
Learn more about the Glass Closet from the LGBT perspective.