To read this content please select one of the options below:

Investigating the glass ceiling phenomenon: An empirical study of glass ceiling’s effects on selection-promotion and female effectiveness

Sharjeel Saleem (Department of Business Administration, Government College University Faisalabad, Faisalabad, Pakistan)
Asia Rafiq (Department of Business Administration, Government College University Faisalabad, Faisalabad, Pakistan)
Saquib Yusaf (Department of Management Science, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad, Pakistan)

South Asian Journal of Business Studies

ISSN: 2398-628X

Article publication date: 2 October 2017




The purpose of this paper is to identify hurdles in women’s rise up the organizational ladder through the epistemic concept of the glass ceiling phenomenon. The secondary aim is to determine how the glass ceiling effect results in women’s failure to secure equal representation in high-ranking executive positions in comparison to males. The study intends to come up with empirical evidences to advance plausible justifications and support for the organizations to manage their workforce with the sense of egalitarianism.


The questionnaire is administered to a sample of 210 respondents including CEOs, directors, managers, assistants, accountants, doctors and teachers from public and private sectors. The variables that influence the glass ceiling phenomenon are gender (female) represented on the board of directors (BODs), stereotypical behavior and training and development of females to measure the glass ceiling effect. Further, this influence is examined regarding the selection and promotion of the females as candidates, as well as female effectiveness at work. To verify the glass ceiling phenomenon, multiple linear regression analyses with the ordinary least square method are used.


Drawing on the perspective of the social role theory, the authors identify plausible causes of the glass ceiling phenomenon in the Asian context. The results show the presence of glass ceiling, particularly characterizing its effects on the selection and promotion of the female candidates and their effectiveness. The authors found that glass ceiling was negatively related to both female effectiveness and “selection and promotion.” It was also identified that research variables such as lesser women’s representation on the BODs, training and development and stereotypical attitude toward women promote glass ceiling.

Research limitations/implications

The larger sample and data collection from different cultures would have assured more generalizability. The glass ceiling is affected by numerous variables; other factors can also be explored.

Practical implications

Organizations must consider competitive females in their selection and promotion decision making. Asian countries, especially developing countries such as Pakistan, need to develop policies to encourage active participation of the female workforce in upper echelon. The equal employment policies will reduce the dependency ratio of females, consequently driving the country’s economic growth.

Social implications

Societies need to change their stereotype attitudes toward women and encourage them to use their potential to benefit societies by shattering glass ceilings that continue to place women at a disadvantage. Developing a social culture that advances women empowerment will contribute to social and infrastructure development in Asian countries.


This paper adds a thought-provoking attitude of organizations in South Asia, especially in Pakistani societies that play a role in creating a glass ceiling, more so to shatter it even in 2016. This study compels firms in Pakistan and other Asian regions to use unbiased practices by investigating the impact of glass ceiling on female effectiveness that has not previously been conducted in the Asian context. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, the study of glass ceiling in Pakistani context is first in the literature.



This paper forms part of a special section on Gender, generation and leadership: insights from South Asia


Saleem, S., Rafiq, A. and Yusaf, S. (2017), "Investigating the glass ceiling phenomenon: An empirical study of glass ceiling’s effects on selection-promotion and female effectiveness", South Asian Journal of Business Studies, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 297-313.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles