Glass Ceiling Model Shows Cracks Below

SolutionsEquality at the bottom of the corporate ladder might be better at smashing the glass ceiling that holds back female advancement than quotas in the boardroom, a mathematical model suggests.

Barbara Keller of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and her colleagues modelled PhD students’ choice of mentor to see if a glass ceiling effect emerged in the resulting social network.

They used three assumptions that reflect the real world:

  • There is a gender imbalance among PhD candidates;
  • Students choose mentors who already have lots of students; and
  • They choose mentors of their own gender.

Female mentors attracted fewer students than did male mentors. But, if any one assumption was removed, the effect disappeared.

Therefore, bringing more women into fields dominated by men might crack the glass ceiling on its own, says Keller (would appear to be a no-brainer to me!).


Keller et al. (2015) Homophily and the Glass Ceiling Effect in Social Networks. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 February, 2015].

Homophily & the Glass Ceiling Effect in Social Networks (Keller, 2015)


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