Working paper 07/183 - Abstract

An Economic Theory of the Glass Ceiling (PDF, 539kB)

Paul A. Grout, In–Uck Park and Silvia Sonderegger

The glass ceiling is one of the most controversial and emotive aspects of employment in organisations. This paper provides a model of the glass ceiling that exhibits the following features that are frequently thought to characterise the problem: (i) there is a lower number of female employees in higher positions, (ii) women have to work harder than men to obtain equivalent jobs, (iii) women are then paid less than men when promoted, and (iv) some organisations are more female friendly than others. These features emerge as an equilibrium phenomenon, when identical firms compete in "Bertrand-like" fashion. Furthermore, they also occur even when offering women the same contract as men in higher positions would be sufficient to ensure that women in those positions would always prefer permanent career over non-market alternatives.

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