Skip to page content
Office of the Secretary
Bookmark and Share

A Solid Investment: Making Full Use of the Nation's Human Capital

Recommendations of the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission

November, 1995

Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 creat-ed the 21-member, bipartisan Federal Glass Ceiling Commission. The Commission's man-date is to study the barriers to the advancement of minorities and women within corporate hierar-chies (the problem known as the glass ceiling), to issue a report on its findings and conclusions, and to make recommendations on ways to dis- mantle the glass ceiling.

The Commission undertook an extensive research and information gathering effort, including public hearings, surveys of chief exec-utive officers, and interviews with focus groups. This work culminated with the spring 1995 release of the Commission's report, Good For Business: Making Full Use of the Nation's Human Capital. The Commission now com-pletes its work, with the release of its recommen-dations in A Solid Investment: Making Full Use of the Nation's Human Capital.

The glass ceiling is a reality in corporate America. Glass ceiling barriers continue to deny untold numbers of qualified people the opportu-nity to compete for and hold executive level posi-tions in the private sector. The relationship between glass ceilings, equal opportunity and affirmative action is complex, as the findings contained in Good for Business demonstrate. Minorities and women are still consistently underrepresented and under utilized at the high-est levels of corporate America. For example, 97 percent of the senior managers of Fortune 1000 Industrial and Fortune 500 companies are white, and 95 to 97 percent are male; in the Fortune 2000 industrial and service companies, only 5 percent of senior managers are women, and almost all of them are white; African American men with professional degrees earn 21 percent less than their white counterparts holding the same degrees in the same job categories. But women and African Americans are not the only ones kept down by the glass ceiling. Only 0.4 percent of managers are Hispanic, although Hispanics make up eight percent of America's workforce. Asian and Pacific Islander Americans earn less than whites in comparable positions and receive fewer promotions, despite more for-mal education than other groups. Generally, the lack of educational opportunity drastically reduces the available pool of Amercian Indian candidates and CEOs rarely consider them for management jobs. These numbers are put in context by the fact that in our society, two-thirds of the population — and 57 percent of workers — are women, minorities or both.

Corporate leaders increasingly are cognizant of both the existence of the glass ceiling and the value of workforce diversity at the management and decisionmaking levels. What motivates companies that have begun to take steps to break glass ceiling barriers? The bottom line. Business leaders see the changes taking place in the demographics of national consumer markets and the labor force, and the rapid globalization of the marketplace. They know that these condi- tions affect the ability of their companies to sur-vive and prosper — and that the existence of the glass ceiling keeps them from adapting to these conditions efficiently and effectively.

The glass ceiling can affect the bottom line in other ways, too. Companies that make full use of diverse human resources at home will be bet-ter prepared for the challenges involved in man- aging even more diverse workforces in the emerging global economy. Companies with strong records for developing and advancing minorities and women will find it easier to recruit members of those groups. Companies whose cultures are hospitable to minorities and women will find it easier to retain those employ-ees, or incur additional recruitment and training costs due to turnover. Increasing the number of minorities and women in areas such as product development, marketing and advertising allows companies to maximize their ability to tap into many segments of the consumer market. Overall, a poor diversity track record can make companies vulnerable to activist consumer groups.

To compete successfully at home and abroad, businesses must make full use of the resources embodied in our people — all of our people. Individuals of all races and both genders are entering our workforce in increasing numbers. By the year 2000, two-thirds of new labor force entrants will be minorities and women, yet the glass ceiling prevents qualified people of diverse backgrounds from achieving top management positions. Over the past 30 years government and business have taken steps to provide access for minorities and women to all levels of employment. These efforts must continue, but business must take the initiative to go beyond what it has achieved to date. Successful compa-nies will be those that seize the opportunity pre- sented by increased diversity, to create a world in which inclusion is elicited and not coerced, and work to increase both the diversity of their work-forces and the opportunities available to all members of their workforce.

Document available in PDF format:

NOTE: In order to view PDF documents you must have a PDF viewer ( (e.g., Amber or Acrobat Reader) available on your workstation.

Return to DOL Home DOL Home Page | Return to top of document Top of Document

History Home Page

In-Depth Research

Annals of the Department

History eSources

Departmental Timeline

Historical Office

 Century of Service  

Wirtz Labor Library