Marilyn Loden, who gave a name to the glass ceiling, dies at age 76 : NPR

A woman holds a banner demanding equal pay during the 2018 march in Munich, Germany.

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A woman holds a banner demanding equal pay during the 2018 march in Munich, Germany.

Alexander Pohl / NurPhoto via Getty Images

When Marilyn Loden first uttered the phrase “glass ceiling” in the 1970s, and even as it became an increasingly permanent fixture of the vocabulary, she hoped for the invisible barrier it describes. will soon become a thing of the past.

Instead, it outlived her. Loden – who passed away in August at the age of 76 after a battle with cancer – was saddened to learn that would be the case, according to a recent obituary in Sign up for Napa . Valley.

“I think I’ll get this done by the end of my life, but I won’t,” Loden said washington articles in 2018. “I hope if it outlasts me, it will [become] an old phrase. People will say, ‘There was a time when there was a glass ceiling.’ ”

While the glass ceiling may be Loden’s most memorable thing, contributing to society, it is not her only legacy.

After his early years in HR, Loden went on to become a management consultant and workplace diversity advocate who has worked with variety of entities, from Citibank to the University of California to the US Navy. Her work in the Navy led to policy changes, increased leadership accountability for sexual harassment, and the lifting of the ban on female sailors serving on submarines, and she received Senior Civil Service Medal in 2016.

Loden is the author of three books, the first – called Feminine Leadership or How to Succeed in Business Without Being a Boy – considered one of Library Magazine’s 50 best business books of 1985 and has been published in six languages.

Loden is also a benefactor of many causes including global health, animal rights and democracy. According to the obituary, she was spoiled by her husband and left behind an older sister, two nephews and nieces, and many close friends.

“Friends and family often describe her as ‘the smartest person I know,’ and she can be wickedly funny,” it added. “Throughout her years as a consultant, speaker, and author, she has attracted many women who are inspired and motivated by her own story and passion.”

Loden gave an impromptu name to a common problem

This particular chapter of the Loden story begins at the 1978 Women’s Show, a feminist convention in New York City.

Loden, then 31 and working in human resources at New York Telephone Co., was invited to join a panel discussing the advancement of women (after the company’s sole female vice president). can’t join, follow Post).

The workshop was called “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” and focused on “the message about limits confronting women and influencing aspirations,” as Loden recalled in a 2008 blog post. She happens to be the last to speak, which means she has time to listen to – and reflect on – the comments of other panelists.

“It’s been a struggle to sit quietly and listen to all the criticism,” she wrote.

Speakers focused on generalizations and stereotypes about women – that they are not properly socialized to succeed, that they limit their career aspirations due to low self-esteem – which is very little. similar to Loden’s own observations and experiences in the workplace.

“Yes, women just can’t seem to climb the career ladder past the bottom rung of middle management, and there have certainly been moments when I’ve seen capable female managers doubt themselves. own ability to ‘get things done’,” she wrote. “However, while the general lack of promotion is obvious, it seems to me that the causes are very different from those listed by my colleagues.”

When it finally came time for Loden’s talk, she chose to talk about specific, cultural barriers to women’s career success, like the biased attitudes of male managers, the unfair pay, lack of role models and emotional support for women. And she gave those obstacles a name: invisible glass ceilings. She then told Post that metaphor comes to her right now, and doesn’t seem like a big deal.

“These comments drew some surprised looks from the other panelists but the reaction from the audience made it clear that my words hit a familiar string,” Loden wrote in the post. on her blog. “Up until that point, it seemed like we were relentlessly blaming our lack of progress because as women in a men’s world we don’t ‘dress for success’ or ‘play games’. the game that mom never taught us.” ”

Loden later recalled some of his own experiences with the glass ceiling, recounting BBC in 2017 that her male boss often tells her to smile more and “actually comment on my appearance in every meeting.”

She has been told many times that the advancement of women in middle management is “decreasing the importance” of those positions. And she failed to promote a male colleague despite her better performance, because, as her employer told her, that co-worker was a “family man.” “, who is the main breadwinner in his family and therefore needs more money.

Loden left the company after working there for 12 years, when she was ordered to take a job she didn’t want.

Despite the relative strides, the problem and the phrase persist

While Loden is widely credited with creating the “glass ceiling,” the sprinkling of stored breadcrumbs suggests that a number of others began using the phrase around the same time.

This phrase first appeared in the text in 1984 AdWeek Profile by Gay Bryant, then editor of Working women magazine (Merriam-Webster lists its origin in the same year). The Wall Street Journal reported that the phrase may have originated in a dinner conversation between two female Hewlett-Packard employees in 1979, and also noted that the phrase appeared in the headlines on its own pages. in 1986.

Whatever its origins, the “glass ceiling” infiltrated print journalism, popular culture, and politics in the 1980s and has maintained its status as a trusted shorthand for the decades since. .

In 1991, Congress created Glass ceiling committee to address the advancement of women and minorities in business: Its Final Report, released in 1995found that women hold only three to five percent of senior management positions in Fortune 500 companies, and in those rare cases, their compensation is lower than that of other Fortune 500 companies. male colleague..

The phrase has appeared in keynote speeches by women leaders in fields such as business, entertainment and politics, including in some speeches of Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and the first woman to be nominated by a major party. From the late former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s broken glass brooch to one portrait glasses about Vice President Harris (first woman, first Black and first Asian American elected to that role), the image is still pervasive.

So is the problem it represents. By 2021 Female CEOs in America reported, only 8.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and less than 1 percent are women of color.

While there’s plenty of room for improvement, there’s been some progress in the years since Loden first tackled that feminist issue. She reflected that in 2017, being one of the BBC 100 Women.

“Over the past four decades, women have bridged the education gap, moved into non-traditional jobs at a remarkably high rate, while managing challenging families and careers, and demonstrated their ability to perform well. ability to innovate, inspire and manage effectively in all areas of the global workplace,” she said. “We just need to get rid of the lightning people to appreciate and take advantage of all that they have to offer.”

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