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Is There a Glass Ceiling?, 25 Harvard Women's Law Journal 1 (2002)


In the spring of 2001, I was asked by the Federalist Society at Harvard

Law School to debate Diana Furchtgott-Roth, chief of staff of the

Council of Economic Advisers in the George NV. Bush Administration, on

the question of whether there is a "glass ceiling" for women in the labor

market. I was to argue in favor of the glass ceiling's existence, and she

was to take the opposing view. As those who attended know, the discussion

ranged broadly over widely varying terrain, including some questions

that should be silly but apparently aren't-most memorably, whether it

is "mommy track" behavior to give one's nanny or babysitter a cell phone

number at which one can be reached while at work when one is away

from one's desk-to serious academic disputes over the underlying explanations

for women's present labor market position. This Essay, on the

occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Harvard Women's Law

Journal, attempts to summarize some of my views on the current state of

the glass ceiling debate.

An important threshold question concerns the definition of the "glass

ceiling." Former Senator Robert Dole once remarked that "there are

probably as many definitions of the glass ceiling as there are individuals

affected by it. But I like the formulation he offered, and I shall adopt it

here. The glass ceiling issue, according to Dole, ultimately "boils down

to eliminating artificial barriers in the workplace which have served to

block the advancement of qualified women." In other words, if barriers

exist that "block the advancement of qualified women," then I shall say

that a glass ceiling is present.

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