Going Up!: Exploring the Phenomenon of the Glass Escalator in Nursing

Nurs Adm Q. 2021 Oct-Dec;45(4):295-301. doi: 10.1097/NAQ.0000000000000489.


The "glass escalator" refers to the structural advantage that males possess in female-dominated occupations that tend to enhance their careers. Males are less likely to enter female-dominated occupations, but when they do, they tend to rise faster and quicker to upper levels of leadership. There is limited research on the glass escalator and its effect on nursing. However, the concept has far-reaching effects for both nurse leaders and the nursing profession. Thus, a critical examination of this phenomenon is crucial. Although males represent 10% of the nursing workforce, they hold close to half of top leadership positions in nursing. While the impact of the glass escalator is clear for White males, it does not appear to apply to minority males or persons of color equally or equitably. In light of each of these factors, it is crucial that nurse leaders understand the glass escalator phenomenon, prior and current research, its implications, and have clear suggestions for addressing it in the workplace moving forward.

MeSH terms

  • Elevators and Escalators
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Male
  • Nurse Administrators*
  • Nursing Staff*
  • Workplace