Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to review many of the diverse metaphors and labels that are used to highlight insights into glass ceilings – the obstacles hindering women reaching the top levels of organizations.
Design/methodology/approach – The development of metaphors and labels related to theories about the causes and consequences of glass ceilings are discussed. They are classified according to whether or not they infer women play a role in creating glass ceilings.
Findings – It is concluded that most metaphor-linked explanations focus on discrimination and prejudice towards women seeking leadership positions. A small number of metaphors target characteristics of women as causes for the gender inequality in leadership and upper management.
Practical implications – Even though there is a plethora of metaphors highlighting obstacles and prejudice against women leaders and several metaphors have been part of the popular lexicon for at least three decades, metaphors do not appear to have greatly helped to quicken the dismantling of glass ceilings.