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Shattering the Glass Ceiling Through the Entrepreneurial Spirit

By: *Carla Arias

Blog Topic: Minorities in the Corporate World

Shattering the Glass Ceiling Through the Entrepreneurial Spirit

American society has vastly changed in recent decades. When glancing over our political and corporate structure one may assume that the idea of a “glass ceiling” has faded into obscurity. Currently, we have an African American president, a Hispanic American woman on the Supreme Court and minorities holding powerful positions all over the corporate and political arenas. However, it must be understood that although racial lines in our country have been blurred, advancements such as these are typically the exception not the rule.

To better understand the difficulties faced by women and minorities in the workforce we must first define the term “glass ceiling”. Webster’s dictionary has defined it as “an intangible barrier within a hierarchy that prevents women or minorities from obtaining upper level positions.”[1]   This invisible barrier has created a political and corporate society, which hinders the advancement of minorities and woman, thus preventing them from reaching their full potential in their respective fields. A 2010 Board Diversity Census found that Caucasian men hold the majority of high-ranking positions on corporate boards for fortune 500 companies throughout our entire country.[2]  The study also stated that the number of positions held by women and minorities is at a standstill, with no steady advancement, although they are extremely qualified to hold superior titles.[3]

The primary question then becomes, how can minorities or women break through this invisible barrier? As stated above, studies have shown that minorities and women being affected by this barrier do not lack the educational background and drive to advance.[4]  Therefore, one must find another route to combat the glass ceiling. It is my opinion that this can be done through the use of the entrepreneurial spirit that has helped our country succeed since the founding of the thirteen colonies. We are a country created by the ability to look past any barrier, which may stand in the way of formulating a governmental system, innovation or societal advancement.  From the settlers to the trailblazers to the huddled masses, the new American pioneer continues the legacy of the entrepreneurial spirit. This same method of thinking is being used today to further the roles of minorities and woman in all branches of government and the corporate world.

When looking at some of the most powerful companies throughout our country, it becomes evident that immigrants and minorities have been able to break through any invisible barrier to formulate fortune 500 corporations, which greatly impact our economy. Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, has made tremendous contributions to the music and entertainment world and has become one of the most influential entrepreneurs in the world.[5]  One cannot lose sight of the fact that he is an African American man. He falls directly into a group impacted by the glass ceiling. However, through entrepreneurial drive, he shattered through that invisible barrier and was able to run a business in which he held the most powerful position. This route used to combat any sort of limitations based on race and gender can be seen time and time again. Jerry Yang, the co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo! Inc. is a Taiwanese born American[6]  who in theory should have been hindered by the glass ceiling but was not. He was able to use his ideas and drive to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world.

The idea of using the entrepreneurial spirit to go around the glass ceiling is not a novel one, but one needs to understand that it is not strictly geared towards those wanting to engage in fortune 500 companies. This is an idea that every American, male, female, or minority can grab on to as a way to reach their full potential. I am a Hispanic American female; some may say I fall into both groups of people who are affected by the glass ceiling; but I am not afraid. I have seen individuals from all walks of life come up with an idea that has potential. They then take that idea and develop it into a business, whether it is a restaurant, a store, a daycare, a medical practice, or even a television show, which might eventually lead to owning their own television network. Although the glass ceiling may still exist, but just as the oceans and the dense wilderness are inadequate to hinder the entrepreneurial spirit, the glass ceiling also cannot hinder the entrepreneurial spirit and it will not prevent women and minorities from reaching their goals. The sky is the limit!

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

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* Carla Arias is a staff member on the Widener Journal, Economics & Race. To learn more about Carla click here to visit her page
[1] “Glass Ceiling.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2013. http://www.merriam-webster.com (4 March 2013).
[2]  Alliance for Board Diversity, Women and Minorities Lose Ground on Fortune 500 Corporate Boards, IMDiversity, (March 4, 2013); http://imdiversity.com/villages/women/women-and-minorities-lose-ground-on-fortune-500-corporate-boards/.
[3] Id.
[4]  Id.
[5]See generally Motown Museum, http://www.motownmuseum.org/story/berry-gordy/ (for a biography on the life and works of Barry Gordy throughout his career as the chairman of Motown Records.)
[6] See generally Forbes, http://www.forbes.com/profile/jerry-yang/ (for a biography on the works of Jerry Yang as the co-founder of Yahoo!,Inc.)
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