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I broke the glass ceiling, now what? Overview of metaphors to explain gender inequality in organizations

Rebeca da Rocha Grangeiro (Universidade Federal do Cariri, Juazeiro do Norte, Brazil)
Lucas Emmanuel Nascimento Silva (Applied Social Sciences Department, Universidade Federal do Cariri, Juazeiro do Norte, Brazil)
Catherine Esnard (Université de Poitiers, Poitiers, France)

International Journal of Organizational Analysis

ISSN: 1934-8835

Article publication date: 19 May 2021

Issue publication date: 7 December 2022




This paper aims to identify and systematically summarize the relevant research on metaphors that are used to explain gender inequalities in the organizational context.


The researchers conducted a systematic literature review using bibliometric techniques and content analysis.


The systematic literature review identified a total of 1,269 papers in 688 journals written by 2,441 authors. The first paper was published in 1971 and the publication growth can be observed in the five decades analyzed. The Gender in Management: An International Journal, was the journal that published more papers about this thematic. Michelle Ryan was the most influential researcher regarding the number of papers and citations she had. The content analysis performed with the 27 most influential papers showed 4 research streams (metaphors; gender and leadership; challenges, stereotypes and toxic environment; and gender in the academy). Concerning the metaphors explored in those papers, the glass ceiling is the most prominent. Furthermore, 26 kinds of barriers were identified regarding the challenges that women face to reach positions of power.

Practical implications

The scrutiny of the metaphors and barriers enable access to what is being a hindrance to female progression in the organizational structure. So, this study may instrumentalize organizations and women to improve gender diversity practices in the workplace.


The value of the paper lays in the extensive literature review, using a bibliometric approach and content analysis.



This work received financial support by Fundação Cearense de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico.


Grangeiro, R.d.R., Silva, L.E.N. and Esnard, C. (2022), "I broke the glass ceiling, now what? Overview of metaphors to explain gender inequality in organizations", International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Vol. 30 No. 6, pp. 1523-1537.



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