The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Glass Ceiling Phenomenon Differs by Industry

WASHINGTON - A new study conducted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) "Glass Ceilings: The Status of Women as Officials and Managers in the Private Sector" shows that women now represent about 36 percent of all officials and managers in private sector employment, a seven percent increase over the 12-year period examined. The full text of the report is available at

"More women are shattering the proverbial glass ceiling, and many more are chipping holes in it," said Commission Chair Cari M. Dominguez. "Unfortunately, the gains are not across the board. Disparities exist in the workforce participation of women, by industry. Some industries are doing better than others. We hope this study will assist employers and employees alike in identifying barriers to and opportunities for access and advancement."

Chair Dominguez will discuss the employment progress of women in the United States, including findings from this report, during the opening session of a day-long program sponsored by the Global Summit of Women. The Colloquium on Global Diversity: Creating a Level Playing Field for Women will take place tomorrow, Friday, March 5, 9:15 to 10:00 a.m., at the Capital Hilton Hotel, 16th and K Streets, NW, Washington, D.C. Interested media are requested to call (202) 835-3713 to reserve seats.

Among key findings: There are noteworthy industry differences in the employment of women as officials and managers. For example, while industries from the health care sector of the economy are the most likely to employ women in these positions, those from the manufacturing sector are least likely to do so. Other industries on the "top 10" list include department stores, legal services and insurance carriers. The "lowest 10" list, in addition to manufacturing industries, includes the electric power generation, transmission and distribution; architectural, engineering and related services; and general freight trucking industries.

According to the study, the distribution of women varies across job categories. Today, women occupy 51.7 percent of "professional" positions, defined as those requiring a college education or comparable background; more than 80 percent of "office and clerical worker" positions; 56.4 percent of "sales worker" positions, a broad category encompassing jobs engaged wholly or primarily in direct selling; and 45.9 percent of "technician" positions, or those jobs requiring a combination of basic scientific knowledge and manual skill which can be obtained through two years of post-high school education.

The term "glass ceiling" is commonly used to describe those artificial, invisible barriers that are based solely on attitudinal or organizational bias, which prevent qualified individuals from advancing upwardly into management level positions. This initial study exclusively examines the status of women, although its methodology can be applied to other groups.

The EEOC's report is based upon data required annually, through a workforce survey, of private sector employers with a minimum of 100 employees as well as federal contractors with at least 50 employees and contracts exceeding $50,000. In Fiscal Year 2002, more than 39,000 employers submitted reports for establishments employing about 52 million people. The survey includes nine occupational categories: officials and managers, professionals, technicians, sales, office and clerical, craft workers (skilled), operatives (semiskilled), laborers (unskilled) and service workers.

The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion or national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects workers age 40 and older from discrimination based on age; the Equal Pay Act of 1963; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the federal sector; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and in state and local governments; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

This page was last modified on March 4, 2004.

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