THE designated head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) intends to pursue cases of discrimination in promotion in order to break the ``glass ceiling'' through which only white males usually pass to the top ranks of corporate America. Evan Kemp Jr. says the United States ``has done well on opening up entry-level jobs,'' but not high-level positions, to racial minorities, women, or people with disabilities.
``If we tell our 50 offices around the country to start looking for cases, I think they're going to start getting cases,'' Mr. Kemp told reporters recently. He acknowledges that these ``are going to be hard cases to prove.'' But he says the mere fact that EEOC, the primary government agency charged with combatting job discrimination, is seeking such cases for possible prosecution ``will send a signal to corporations'' through the US, and thereby help to end the ceiling on minority promotion.
Last fall President Bush designated Kemp to be EEOC's new chairman, once Clarence Thomas is confirmed as a member of the US Appeals Court. Mr. Thomas, a black who chaired EEOC for eight years, is expected to gain Senate confirmation relatively easily. Kemp, who uses a wheelchair and is white, has been one of EEOC's five commissioners for two and a half years. He has been a leader on rights of the disabled for 20 years.
By 2000, fewer than one quarter of American workers will be white males. The bulk of the work force will be minorities or women, Kemp says. ``But if we don't starting breaking that glass ceiling ... white males will still have most of the top jobs and dominate the boards'' of American corporations.
Private organizations and individuals outside government can help pull down the ``glass ceiling,'' Kemp says. He notes that women own more than half the stocks in the US. The impact would be dramatic if they were to withhold their votes in shareholder decisions until corporations treat women and other minorities equitably in filling high-level jobs, he adds. ``Women could bring the whole corporate structure to its knees if they wanted to,'' Kemp says.