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Glass Escalator in Sociology: Definition & Effects

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  • 0:01 Definition of Glass Escalator
  • 1:27 Effects of the Glass Escaltor
  • 2:17 Hidden Advantages for Men
  • 3:34 Examples of the Glass Escaltor
  • 4:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica McCallister
This lesson discusses the concept of the glass escalator in sociology and its effects on men and women in the professional workplace. A short quiz is provided after the lesson to assess your knowledge of the topic.

Definition of the Glass Escalator

Let's start this lesson off by first thinking about the experience of riding an escalator. With an escalator, you're able to get on it, stand and usually have people get on behind you. There are also most likely some people ahead of you. You all have your place on the escalator, and you can see above and below you.

In other words, you can experience the ride on an escalator as you move up. The same can be said about the glass escalator effect in the professional workplace. We'll want to think about career advancement as an escalator. Women notice the men who advance around them and move up the escalator. They also sometimes wonder why they aren't moving up themselves or receiving promotions as quickly, when everyone is supposed to have the same opportunities.

The glass escalator effect describes the differences in upward advancement between men and women in the workplace, particularly those workplaces that are female-dominated. Some possible solutions to level the gender playing field include promotion based on evaluation, assessment of performance, seniority systems and so on.

As you are most likely aware, the study of sociology is concerned with human society and culture. Gender equality in the workplace has been debated for decades within the field of sociology. Now, let's take a closer look at the implications of the glass escalator theory on gender in the workplace.

Effects of the Glass Escalator

Have you ever wondered why some people advance in their careers more quickly than others, when it appears everyone is performing the same in their jobs? Or, maybe you are a woman and have noticed that even though some men you work with do the same work as you and meet the same standards, they are moving higher in the company at a much quicker pace. This may be a product of the glass escalator effect.

Riding a glass escalator means that there are hidden advantages that men experience in female-dominated work environments, which put them in the position to rise to higher levels because of their gender. In female-dominated industries, such as social work, nursing and education, the number of opportunities for women is generally increased. However, when the glass escalator effect occurs, men still tend to rise to higher levels than women and do so by hidden advantages.

Hidden Advantages for Men

A hidden advantage is a benefit that occurs for men in the workplace when they are not actively trying to make it happen. Here are some examples of hidden advantages for men in the workplace:

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