A glass ceiling thick as lead

August 13, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

SHATTERING the "glass ceiling" in corporate America should be even more of a national priority now that an authoritative Bush administration study has shown that women and minorities face barriers in their careers at a far earlier stage than previously believed.

The Department of Labor study disclosed that women and minorities are blocked by subtle corporate practices at much lower management levels than heretofore thought. And the careers of minorities were found to plateau much earlier than those of white women, according to Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin.

The yearlong pilot study of nine Fortune 500 corporations was the government's first effort to analyze corporate prejudices that exclude women and minorities from jobs traditionally known to be paths to managerial and executive positions. The study found that women and minorities were most frequently excluded from informal career-enhancement activities such as networking, mentoring and participation in policy-making committees. They also were more likely to be dealt jobs in public relations than, say, in production -- traditionally a fast track to promotion.

To many, the Department of Labor's conclusions merely confirm the painfully obvious. But the findings are philosophically at odds with the administration's stiff opposition to proposed civil rights legislation. President Bush erroneously maintains that the bill, which would offer substantial protections against job discrimination for minorities and women, would require quotas for hiring or promotions.

Although planning no new enforcement campaign, the Department of Labor says that it will stress educational and voluntary efforts by business to break the promotional barriers that contribute to the glass-ceiling syndrome. It wants business to do the right thing, rather than face the possibility of being coerced into corrective action. Nothing wrong at all with corporate activism -- if it works.

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