sticky floor
n. Unofficial business practices that keep workers in low-paying jobs that offer little chance for personal advancement.

Example Citations:
“There are also those women who don’t have a voice, who are too busy trying to balance their family life with part-time jobs and low incomes. They have been left behind, by the women’s movement, by the unions, by everyone. They have become industrial fodder and they’re invisible because they don’t have any group speaking on their behalf.”

In the past few months, Harris has spoken publicly on the need to work for the women who have become industrial fodder, those caught on the “sticky floor”.
—Deirdre Macken, “The Blooding of Cathy Harris,” Sydney Morning Herald, December 16, 1995

For black women, says Cydney, the problem “isn‘t as much breaking through the glass ceiling as it is . . . getting off the sticky floor.”
—Donna Britt, “A Guide For Sisters Hard at Work,” The Washington Post, April 27, 1993

Earliest Citation:
They are the workers who dispense driver’s licenses, take care of the mentally ill and keep the paperwork moving. Some of what they do is the most difficult or aggravating work around — utterly essential jobs that twirl the wheels of state and local government, yet pay badly and provide little hope of a better future.

Many of these workers are women, and the glass ceiling that so frustrates their female professional counterparts is for most of them irrelevant, a realization that prompted researcher Catherine White Berheide to offer a more appropriate building part to serve as a metaphor for the occupational frustrations of women. Ms. Berheide, a sociologist of work at Skidmore College in upstate New York, proposes the “sticky floor” as an image to encapsulate the plight of hundreds of thousands of women trapped in low-wage, low-mobility jobs in state and local government.
—Barbara Presley Noble, “And Now the ‘Sticky Floor’,” The New York Times, November 22, 1992

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