Marilyn Loden, Who Named Glass Ceiling, Dies at 76: NPR


A woman holds a banner for equal pay during a 2018 march in Munich, Germany.

Alexander Pohl/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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Alexander Pohl/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A woman holds a banner for equal pay during a 2018 march in Munich, Germany.

Alexander Pohl/NurPhoto via Getty Images

When Marilyn Loden first uttered the phrase “the glass ceiling” in the 1970s, and even as it became an increasingly permanent part of the lexicon, she hoped that the invisible barrier it described would soon be a thing of the past.

Instead, he survived her. Loden – who died in August aged 76 after a battle with cancer in – was saddened to know that would be the case, according to a recent obituary in the Napa Valley Registry.

“I thought I would be done with this by the end of my life, but it won’t be,” Loden said. The Washington Post in 2018. “I hope that if he survives me, he [become] an outdated sentence. People will say, ‘There was a time when there was a glass ceiling.’ ”

Although the glass ceiling is perhaps Loden’s most memorable contribution to society is far from being his only legacy.

After her early years in human resources, Loden became a management consultant and workplace diversity advocate who worked with a wide variety of entities, from Citibank to the University of California via the US Navy. Her work in the Navy led to policy changes increasing leadership accountability for sexual harassment and lifting the ban on female sailors serving on submarines, and she received her Civilian Senior Service Medal in 2016.

Loden is the author of three books, the first of which – titled Female leadership or how to succeed in business without being part of the boys — was considered one of the 50 best business books of 1985 by the Library Journal and has been published in six languages.

Loden was also a benefactor to many causes, including global health, animal rights, and democracy. She was predeceased by her husband and leaves behind a sister, two nephews and great-nieces and many close friends, according to the obituary.

“Friends and family would often describe her as ‘the smartest person I know,’ and she could be wickedly funny,” he added. “Throughout her many years as a consultant, speaker and author, she has attracted many women inspired and driven by her own story and passion.”

Loden gave an impromptu name to a pervasive problem

This particular chapter in Loden’s story began at the 1978 Women’s Exposition, a feminist conference in New York.

Loden, then 31 and working in the human resources department of the New York Telephone Co., was invited to participate in a panel discussion on the advancement of women (after the company’s only female vice president could not show up, according to The post office).

The panel was titled “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” and focused on “the messages of limitation faced by women and the effect on aspirations,” as Loden recalls in a 2008 blog post. She happened to be the last speaker, which means she had time to listen to — and think about — the other panelists’ comments.

“It was a struggle to sit quietly and listen to all the criticism,” she wrote.

Speakers focused on generalizations and stereotypes about women – that they weren’t properly socialized to succeed, they limited their own career aspirations due to low self-esteem – which bore little resemblance to their own observations. and experiences of Loden in the workplace.

“It is true that women seemed incapable of climbing the career ladder beyond the lowest rung of middle management and there were certainly times when I had seen capable female managers filled with doubts about their own ability to ‘get the job done,'” she wrote. . “However, while the general lack of advancement was evident, it seemed to me that the causes were very different from those listed by my fellow presenters.”

When the time finally came for Loden to speak, she chose to speak about the concrete cultural barriers to women’s career success, such as biased attitudes of male managers, unequal pay, and lack of role models and emotional support for women. the women. And she gave a name to these obstacles: the invisible glass ceiling. She said later The post office that the metaphor came to mind at the time, and didn’t seem like a big deal.

“These comments drew surprised looks from fellow panelists, but the audience response made it clear that my words struck a chord,” Loden wrote in her blog post. “Until then, it seemed like we were endlessly blamed for our lack of progress because, as women in a man’s world, we didn’t ‘dress for success’ or ‘play games’. games that our mother never taught us.”

Loden later recalled some of his own experiences with the glass ceiling, telling the BBC in 2017 that her male boss often told her to smile more and “made it a point to comment on my appearance at every meeting.”

She has been repeatedly told that the advancement of women into middle management “degrades the importance” of these positions. And she lost a promotion to male co-worker despite her better performance because, as her employer told her, the co-worker was a “family man” who was the primary breadwinner in his household and therefore needed more. silver.

Loden left the company after working there for 12 years, when she was ordered to take a job she did not want.

Despite relative progress, the problem and the sentence persisted

While Loden is widely credited with creating “the glass ceiling”, a sprinkling of archival breadcrumbs suggests that a few others started using the phrase around the same time.

The phrase first appeared in writing in a 1984 AdWeek Profile of Gay Bryant, then editor of working women magazine (Merriam Webster mentions its origin as the same year). The Wall Street Journal reported that the phrase may have originated from a conversation over dinner between two Hewlett-Packard female employees in 1979, and also noted that it appeared in a headline of its own pages in 1986.

Whatever its origins, the “glass ceiling” made its way into print, popular culture, and politics in the 1980s and maintained its status as a trusted shorthand in the decades that followed.

In 1991, Congress created the Glass Ceiling Commission to address the advancement of women and minorities in business: its final report, published in 1995found that women held only three to five percent of leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies, and in those rare cases, they were paid less than their male counterparts.

The phrase has appeared in prominent speeches by female leaders in fields such as business, entertainment, and politics, including in several speeches by Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and the first woman to be nominated by a major party. Of the late former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright broken glass brooch has a glass portrait of Vice President Harris (the first woman, first black person, and first Asian American to be elected to that office), the imagery is still rife.

The same goes for the problem it represents. According to the 2021 Women CEOs in America report, only 8.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and less than 1% are women of color.

While there is plenty of room for improvement, there has been progress in the years since Loden first addressed this feminist panel. She thought about it in 2017, as one of the BBC 100 women.

“Over the past four decades, women have closed the education gap, moved into non-traditional jobs at remarkably high rates, simultaneously managed families and challenging careers, and demonstrated their ability to innovate, to inspire and manage effectively in all areas of the world of work,” she says. “We only have to take off the blinders to appreciate and take advantage of all they have to offer.”


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