Affirmative action was developed in reaction to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act declared that discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or sex was illegal. The President’s call for affirmative action acted as a catalyst for the Civil Rights Act. The Random House Dictionary defines affirmative action as “the encouragement of increased representation of women and minority members, especially in employment.” With the establishment of affirmative action women have gained advancements and prestige in the business world; however, the phenomenon known as the glass ceiling hinders women from achieving promotions to high-level positions in corporate America.
Kaufman relays that the Bureau of Labor estimates that in five years women will make up forty-eight percent of the American work force. Advocates for women’s progression in business occupations would hope that with the increase in working women, the number of women in CEO positions would also increase. Unfortunately, this view does not seem too promising. In Fortune magazine’s survey of America’s largest companies “only sixteen indicated that they thought it very likely or somewhat likely that their company would have a female CEO within the next ten years, while eighteen percent believed it was very likely within the next twenty years” (Crampton). Several key factors hold fast the glass ceiling and prevent women from progression.
Clever as the headlines are, these depictions of women's success in the corporate world are misleading. Increasingly, women are bumping into a "glass ceiling." Ann Morrison describes the problem: the glass ceiling is a barrier "so subtle that it is transparent, yet so strong that it prevents women from moving up the corporate hierarchy." From their vantage point on the corporate ladder, women can see the high-level corporate positions but are kept from "reaching the top"