It’s Time to Retire the ‘Glass Ceiling’: Broadsheet

July 26, 2019, 12:29 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Tulsi Gabbard sues Google, Boris Johnson’s tax plan would benefit mostly men, and you all are over the ‘glass ceiling.’ Have a wonderful weekend. 


- Breaking glass. Earlier this week, I wrote about a New York Times story that points out that, unlike Hillary Clinton, the women running for president this time around have been avoiding the phrase "glass ceiling." I was curious to know how all of you feel about the term—and you didn't disappoint.  

Interestingly, the phrase didn’t find a ton of defenders in my inbox. The fiercest was this note from C.M., who took issue with linguist Robin Lakoff's declaration that the term “seemed tired":

C.M.: “The phrase that encapsulates women's struggle for equality has only stood the test of 50 years' time and, while women still aren't equal, already people are over it. Yet, the phrase itself can't be nearly as 'tired' as the women who have to use it when explaining why they deserve to have a seat at the table, to be heard, or to even just be considered. If anything, we're exhausted from having to master lingual gymnastics so that men—and some women—aren't threatened, offended, or tired of hearing about the fight for equality.”

But despite that stirring defense, the majority of you seemed ready to retire the term.

“It definitely needs an update. Kamala Harris uses a tech term ‘breaking things’ that’s probably more relevant given the role technology has in society today.” – B.B.

From L.G.’s perspective, it’s not so much that we need better language. Instead, she suggests we should stop referring to existence of the gender-based inequality altogether:

“As women, we don’t want the focus to be if women can do the job, or our place in society as women. We want the conversation to revolve around our qualifications and ability to succeed… The movement to stop focusing on the glass ceiling is a movement to stop focusing on our position as women. We are no longer asking to have equal rights—we are demanding it. We are doing this by acting as if there was already equality. The campaign is not about breaking a glass ceiling, the campaign is about being a strong, badass human.”

C.T., meanwhile, suggested that rather than use a metaphorical term like “glass ceiling,” journalists and others likely to use the phrase should employ “hard numbers.” For instance, when referencing the paucity of women at a certain level in politics, she’d like to see stats on the percentage of white men who hold the office in the question.

Then there’s J.B., who writes that the term allows individuals to shirk responsibility:

“I avoid the 'glass ceiling' language always. It is absolutely the case that women face tougher challenges and that resistance to our advancement exists. But language like this takes people out of the equation and blames the whole thing on the system. It lets men (and queen bees) off the hook! As in ‘it’s not me, I do all I can. It’s that the ceiling is glass!’ We are all responsible, men and women. Getting to the top disrupts the power structure balance. That’s pretty hard for everyone and even harder for women. We get it. So instead, focus on solutions.”

Finally, I enjoyed this note from D.S., who attempted to put the term in a historical context:

“I think 'the glass ceiling' does have a place. While it’s not the only piece of (the feminist) movement’s history, it has and does play a part.... Have you seen the ‘Adam Sandler walked so [teen pop artist] Billie Eilish could run’ meme that refers to their respective fashion styles? [Readers, I had not. But I’m happy to say I’ve now rectified that, and you can too.] Simply put, I think ‘the glass ceiling’ walked so ‘build your own house,’ ‘she persisted,’ and ‘break things’ could run." 

Kristen Bellstrom


- Up next in Puerto Rico. If Wanda Vázquez, who is first in line to replace Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, takes over as the leader of Puerto Rico, she'll a lot awaiting her, from the debt crisis to fight for sovereignty. But she's not the only candidate for the job: Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress, is now the only link between the island and D.C. and is being floated as an alternate possibility.

- Over in Iceland. Iceland has been ranked by the World Economic Forum as the best country to be a woman; it probably helps that Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir is in charge. At 43, she's the youngest woman to lead a European country; her government has rolled out the world's toughest equal pay legislation—and she credits Iceland's 350,000-person population for some of her success. “It can be an advantage to be small,” she says. “You can do things bigger and faster. You can actually change everything in a very short time.” Time

- 2020 talk. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard filed a $50 million lawsuit against Google yesterday, alleging that the tech giant violated the First Amendment by suspending her advertising account and suppressing her bid for the presidency; Google says the account was automatically flagged. For another 2020 story, read about the #KHive, Sen. Kamala Harris's most devoted supporters online (yes, their name comes from the #BeyHive). 

- The 10%. As U.K. prime minister, Boris Johnson has a proposed tax plan. The plan would benefit the top 10% of richest households in the U.K.—meaning that its beneficiaries would be 77% male, Labour calculated. Guardian

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Judy Shelton resigned from her post as U.S. envoy to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as she awaits confirmation of her nomination to the Federal Reserve. Athleta president and CEO Nancy Green will move to a new role at Gap Inc. as president and chief creative officer of Old Navy. Unilever's Cathryn Sleight is set to join Mars Wrigley as president of business development. AliveCor hired Amazon's Priya Abani as CEO. Time hired Dana Rosen as chief legal officer. Valérie Hermann will resign as president of global brands at Ralph Lauren. Violeta Andic left her job as head of Mango's plus-size label Violeta. Vertex promoted Reshma Kewalramani to CEO. Enid Muthoni Ndiga joined the Center for Reproductive Rights as SVP, global legal program.


- Epstein updates. The New York Times digs into the strange relationship between Jeffrey Epstein and L Brands founder and longtime CEO Les Wexner—including interviewing Alicia Arden, a model who says Epstein sexually assaulted her under cover of "auditioning" her to be a Victoria's Secret model. In related news, Epstein has financial ties to Sen. Diane Feinstein's husband Richard Blum. And Epstein was found injured in his jail cell.  

- Oil and water. Occidental Petroleum CEO Vicki Hollub is in the midst of a dustup with activist investor Carl Icahn over her $38 billion deal to buy Anadarko Petroleum. Icahn isn't trying to block the deal, but he is working to exert more influence over Occidental—including trying to put Hollub's predecessor on the company's board. WSJ

- Spin forward. Women are taking over the DJ scene in Brooklyn—after a grassroots movement that raised their stature and pay. Scroll through this interactive story to see what it's like. New York Times

- New platforms, same problems. While peak TV has led to a surge of female voices, the economics of streaming are starting to look a lot more like traditional television. While streamers sought auteurs—often women—through shows like Fleabag and Orange Is the New Black, a more common refrain these days is, "How is what you’re doing connected to our commercial goals?" New York Times

Today's Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe. Share it with a friend. Looking for previous Broadsheets? Click here.


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Megan Rapinoe scores again, but this time it's a book deal New York Times


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