CSOM ‘glass ceiling’ ad hits opposition online

One in a series of new ads has been criticized online as ‘sexist.’
An advertisement for the Carlson School of Management MBA program was featured in the downtown Minneapolis skyway system.
By
  • Courtesy of Deborah Carver, University alumna
November 07, 2013

A University of Minnesota alumna posted a blog entry nearly three weeks ago that said a Carlson School of Management advertisement is offensive to women.

Displayed in Minneapolis’ downtown skyway system, the ad featured a woman pressed up against glass and text reading, “Hit the glass ceiling?”

The ad marketed CSOM’s Master of Business Administration program and finished running at the end of October, but CSOM will continue displaying more advertisements from the same campaign.

Johnny Thompson, CSOM executive director of communications, said the larger campaign represents barriers young professionals may face in the workplace.

“They find themselves in corporate environments or company environments, and they can’t seem to move up any way,” he said, “and the answer is our MBA program.”

But Deborah Carver, who authored the original blog post, said she thought the advertisement used the term “glass ceiling“ inappropriately and in the wrong context.

The term typically refers to artificial barriers that can prevent women and minorities from advancing in the workplace.

“It’s not really a marketing term to be thrown about,” she said. “As far as using [the advertisement] to sell MBA degrees, that irked me a lot.”

Thompson said he was aware of the blog post but hadn’t been contacted about the ad. He said the advertising campaign’s creative team evaluated using the term “glass ceiling” before the advertisement debuted.

“Now, we didn’t help her address gender issues; we gave her an education. That’s the point of the ad,” he said.

Jennifer Pierce, a University American studies professor, specializes in topics including gender, workplace and labor studies. She agreed with Carver that the ad used the term incorrectly.

“The individuals who crafted the CSOM ad clearly do not understand the meaning of the term ‘glass ceiling,’” she said.

Pierce said getting a business degree doesn’t make the glass ceiling go away.

“If we want to break the glass ceiling, it is workplace organizations’ and managers’ exclusionary practices that have to change,” she said.

Carver’s blog post, which called the advertisement “sexist,” garnered social media attention after it was posted on Oct. 18.

It received 48 notes, meaning “likes” or shares, as of Wednesday night.

In an emailed statement, University Mithun Chair in Advertising John Eighmey said the glass ceiling is a “harsh metaphor,” and it’s important to note that young businesswomen are seizing opportunities.

“This may not be the best metaphor to reach them,” he said.

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