A graphic on the defintion of Sticky Floors

What is the Sticky Floor?

The Sticky Floor is a way to visualise women in their career when they get stuck and don’t materially progress – similar to the Glass Ceiling idea. It’s particularly relevant and often used regarding the gender divide between occupational attainment for men and women when they enter the workforce in low-paid jobs. 

While to begin with, men and women progress out of entry level jobs in a similar way and move upwards. After that, their progression differs. According to research, men tend to have a steady upward progression compared to women, who move more slowly and then are likely to move downwards back towards their original position. In this way, women tend to stay or return to the lowest occupational roles – they become stuck to the so-called Sticky Floor. 

This effect contrasts the ‘Springboard’ idea, where men continue progressing into better positions, using their entry level roles to bound forwards in their career. In part, this gender divide is because women are subject to structural barriers in the workplace, including boundaries arising from childcare responsibilities and ‘Second Generation Bias‘.  

Related Concepts 

Glass Ceiling

Marzipan Layer

Second Generation Bias

Related Research 

ECC’s summaries ‘Women’s Progression in the Workplace’ examines in more depth the barriers women face in the workplace. Additionally, ‘When Women Lead, Firms Win’ looks at the benefits for companies in investing in women leaders.

Related Resources

Reading ECC’s explainer ‘Why are there so few women in the workplace’ will further develop your understanding of the factors that contribute to creating the Sticky Floor.

Click here to learn more about Women’s Development Programmes: 6 Lessons from Designing Women’s Development Programmes

Click here to learn more about Inclusive Leadership: Intro to Developing Inclusive Leaders 

Click here to learn more about our research-inspired: ‘Boundaried Worker’