Glass ceiling refers to the tacit, unofficial, and often illegal prohibition in many organizations, usually businesses on women being promoted above a certain mid-level position in the hierarchy. This is virtually a cultural phenomenon, with over 90% of all top-level executives and managers in companies worldwide being men. First recorded in 1984, when it described the lack of opportunities and barriers to career advancement for women, the term has since come to include the barriers faced by people from minority groups too. The phrase glass ceiling highlights the fact that a person could be perfecly qualified for a position – hence the 'glass', because one could see oneself there, potentially – but simply cannot reach it. Essentially, if someone talks about facing a glass ceiling, they mean that the only thing holding them back from moving up the career ladder is bias against their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion.
Spin-offs from this phrase include 'glass cliff', where a woman is promoted, but to a job where the chance of failure is high, 'glass floor', which notes that the factors that hold a group (in this case women) back in some contexts are the same that keep them away from other, less desirable posts, such as bottom-rung jobs like garbage collector, or in crime and prison.