An alternative view through the glass ceiling

Nelarine Cornelius (Brunel School of Business and Management, Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK)
Denise Skinner (Oxford Brookes University Business School, Oxfordshire, UK)

Women in Management Review

ISSN: 0964-9425

Publication date: 1 December 2005



To introduce the reader to a new way of understanding how the glass ceiling, the informal mechanisms and structures that slow or prevent women's advancement, may be configured, using capabilities theory.


Capabilities theory is used as an analytical lens to evaluate the nature of interaction between the senior women's “internal capabilities” (their readiness to act), and the external “work environment” (work and non‐work factors) that in combination with internal capabilities, constitute combined capabilities. In particular, we reflect on how the character of combined capabilities might effect senior women's perception of ambition and risk and the choices that are made during the “career journey”.


From a capabilities perspective, it can be argued that the remit of HRM policy makers regarding the careers of women attempting to break through the glass ceiling needs to be broadened, particularly by those organisations not only wishing to enhance their corporate social responsibility with regards to existing and potential employees but also those wishing to deepen their understanding of workplace inequality.


This paper adds to our understanding of women's career journeys, and is likely to be of interest also to those researching the in areas of workplace equality and diversity and HRM policy and practice.



Cornelius, N. and Skinner, D. (2005), "An alternative view through the glass ceiling", Women in Management Review, Vol. 20 No. 8, pp. 595-609.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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