Glass Ceiling for Black/Gay people 1000 words

Critically analyze the literature pertaining to the existence of glass ceiling for the afro-Caribbean and homosexual minorities in the UK in certain organizations.


The idea of the ‘glass ceiling’ blocking progress for Afro-Caribbean and homosexual minorities at the work place is part of the ways in which discrimination operates in the modern work place environment. Discrimination is simply unfavourable action(s) against individuals because one is a member of certain category. It may be in form of a blanket discrete policy to exclude these groups in the disbursement of opportunity and advancement in the work place. Scholars have attempted to capture the ways and forms in which discrimination is propagated in our societies, and in particular the work place environment. Discrimination comes in variety of forms and it occurs across all occupational sectors. It is a crucial aspect in today’s post imperial and post cold war British society, which has adopted a US-style identity politics dialectic, and it is often refer to as institutionalised discrimination is an institution in unaware of discrimination it may inadvertently promote. A ‘glass ceiling; refers to the supposedly invisible barrier to minority groups, despite there being the appearance of equality of opportunity.

Institutionalised discrimination is thus unintentional discrimination; it is the unfair indirect treatment of a person embedded in the operations and systems of an institution or body. It is embodied in the often unintentional, barriers and selection/promotion procedures which serve to disadvantage members of minority groups. Beaver et al (1999, p.19) note that institutionalised discrimination is not necessarily a conscious policy on the part of the organisation; however, whether conscious or unconscious, it is a powerful and damaging force – although one must acknowledge that whether it exists at all in many cases is a moot point, because perception does not equal evidence-based reality. This short piece provides a brief overview of literature pertaining to the existence of glass ceiling for the Afro-Caribbean and homosexual population in the UK with evidence and examples.

Literature overview

Most of the literatures on discriminations in the United Kingdom do not extensively deal with the issue of the glass ceiling at work place as it relates to people of Afro-Caribbean descents and homosexuals; the feminist body of literature is large, by contrast. This literature, for example Jeff Frank 2004, Booth et al 2003, 2001 and Barbara Reskin 2000, converge on the extent organisations promote the possibility of glass ceilings for some categories of workers, especially in the context of pay and promotion. However, it does not explore organisation discrete policies that promote discrimination.

Consequently, the concentration of these studies, which is the existence of a glass ceiling on pay, promotion and gender motivated discrimination at the organisation, has been relegated to the background. Issues related to selective discrimination that leave-out some workers when it comes to further training and professional advancement which serves as a major pre-requisite for workers promotion and thus not comprehensive studies. In his study on the ‘Gay Glass Ceiling’, Jeff Frank (2004) shows how sexual orientation affects promotion and the possibility of glass ceilings. Although it a major study that examines whether ‘tastes for discrimination’ become reflected in wage rates or promotion, it does not look into the question of whether human resource policies can be or are being used to alter or propagate potentially discriminatory behaviour of member(s) of an organisation.

The Afro-Caribbean Example

As an unofficial barrier to workplace advancement, glass ceiling at the work place is one of many discriminatory challenges Afro-Caribbean face in the British society. In his examination of ethnicity and workplace inequality, Peach (1996) notes that full time average wage income for ‘black’ was pegged at £6.88 per hour compare with that of the ‘White’ £7.73 on the same level and possibly in the same establishment as of 1995.[1] In a similar case, Afro-Caribbean is the lowest of all ethnic segment of British society on the percentage of workers in managerial class. However, is this really because of any discrimination? Perhaps it is largely due to the lower social class of Afro-Carribeans as well as cultural factors; lower class white people fare no better, after all. The existence of the glass ceiling for Afro-Caribbeans is also significant in the sense that they arguably have to be better qualified than their white peers on the same level of work. Professor Tariq Modood, as a co-author of a report on ethnic minority for the policy studies institute in 1997, found that Afro-Carribbeans were less likely to be among the higher earners, but they were also less likely to be amongst the lowest paid, even compared to whites. William and Nicholas (2009) report suggests under representation of Black and Minority Ethnic[2] people in the library and information services profession at University College London (UCL). This was attributed to some important issues such as the barriers that Black and Minority Ethnic people face in entering the profession which is rooted in the human resource practises and the application processes (Ibid 2009, p.13). However, this is clearly an assumption; the reason there are fewer BMEs in the library may be nothing to do with race or discrimination – for example, the choice of BMEs to enter other professions, or religious/family responsibilities which mean BMEs are unwillingly to work late or at weekends.

The Gay and Lesbian Example

One crucial aspect of institutional discrimination is that it is a systemic process which very often is not a tangible thing that can easily be defined. Modern discrimination in the work place is arguably more subtle and less overt than in the past. Earlier in this year, the owner of the Pembroke Arms, a former gay pub in London’s Shepherd’s Bush, attempted to turn the this pub into a ‘trendy gastropub’ to attract patrons from the wider section of the community. Four weeks after the club relaunched, one of the staff resigned based on anti-gay prejudice such as the referring to the club staff as ‘queens’, and the management insistence on putting up a sign “This is not a gay club”. A central London Employment Tribunal found the company guilty of discrimination against this member of staff and subsequently the company was ordered to pay £4,593.75 to the individual in question (The Telegraph 25 February, 2010).[3] In this case, the question is how can discrimination be minimised in the process of an organisation overhauling its management and marketing procedures to attract patrons from wider section of the public?


In rounding up this piece, it can be noted that the glass ceiling for Afro-Caribbean and Homosexual minorities are occurring and real in many organisations in the United Kingdom. Although there are limited examples to back-up this claim, and much is hearsay rather than evidence, discrimination could well exist in an unintentional way or through discrete policies that create barriers which serve to disadvantage members of minority groups. In this regard, scholarly attention has to be directed to unravelling those management policies and practises that tend to propagate institutional discrimination in an unintentional unintended ways in an organisation.




BEAVER et al. 1999. Babies and Young Children: Early Years Care and Education (2nd Edition) London: Stanley Thornes Limited

BOOTH, A. Et al. 2001. Outside Offers and the Gender PayGap: Empirical Evidence from the UK Academic Labour Market. mimeo.

BOOTH, A. Et al. 2003. A Sticky Floors Model of 28 Promotion, Pay and Gender. European Economic Review, volume 47/2, 99-126

JEFF, F. 2004. Gay Glass Ceiling. Discussion Paper Series 2004- 20, Department of Economics, Royal Holloway College, University of London,

RESKIN, B. 2000. The Proximate Causes of Employment Discrimination, 29 Contemp. Soc. 319

WILLIAM, P. and NICHOLAS, D. 2009. Exploring the low representation of Black and Minority Ethnic staff in the library and information science profession: case study of London. CIBER Research, Department of Information Studies, University College London,



[1]              See

[2]              Black and Minorty Ethnic is a blanket term used in the study to cover Caribbean, Africans and Asians.

[3]              Heidi Blake “Homosexual man wins discrimination claim against company that tried to ‘de-gay’ his pub” The Telegraph 25 February, 2010