PerspectivesVolume 2, No. 1

Take a Ride on the Glass Escalator

In 1992, sociologist Christine Williams developed the theory of the glass escalator: that while token women in predominantly male professions tend to experience a “glass ceiling” of invisible barriers to entry and promotion, token men in predominantly female professions experience a “glass escalator” of invisible assistance helping them move up in their field. Colette Kelly finds in ballet an exemplary profession wherein institutional mechanisms create this “glass escalator” by favoring certain types of people, particularly those who hold positions of power. In order to dissect these institutional mechanisms, Kelly traces the careers of several influential male choreographers through historical newspaper articles and interviews two women at various stages of their choreographic careers. Kelly posits that “Ballet, in its complexity, provides a powerful platform to address how institutions may discourage, discredit, and devalue the work of women who are pursuing positions of authority at the highest level of influence.” In examining the career paths of female choreographers, such as Emery LeCrone, alongside those of male choreographers, such as Justin Peck, Kelly navigates the relationship between gender, power, and opportunity. Through identifying the mechanisms that preferentially promote certain types of people to positions of power, Kelly aims to de-normalize them, and thus create the potential for these mechanisms to be questioned and overcome.