|a situation in which progress, esp promotion, appears to be possible but restrictions or discrimination create a barrier that prevents it|
An unacknowledged — and ultimately illegal — barrier to advancement, especially for women and people of color: “In many professions a woman cannot break through the glass ceiling to the upper level of management.” The term dates from the 1980s.
An unacknowledged discriminatory barrier to advancement, especially for women and minorities. For example, Harriet knew she'd never be promotedshe would never get through the glass ceiling. [1980s]