The term ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ is used for going through the invisible and unwritten barriers that exist in many fields of society. In USA, it seems possible, even likely, that Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the first woman president, as she has been nominated to be the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate for November 2016. If she wins, she will be ‘breaking the glass ceiling’.

It may sound like a small event to many countries in the world, but in America, it would the first time ever to have a woman in the highest office in the land. There are many conservative power structures in USA, as in other countries. The limitations are rarely formal and written, but invisible and informal. The consequences of the hindrances are visible enough, in the workplaces, in politics, in economy and finance, and so on.

Breaking the glass ceiling has become a term that we in particular use about the advancement of women. In the last generation or two, women have moved faster towards full equality with men than in a long time. But there are many other fields, too, where we can use the term of breaking the glass ceiling, notably when people do unthinkable things and even make them mainstream in a short while. Accepting greater equality in race relations is one field; realising the existence of different sexual orientations is another field; accepting young developing countries as equal, is yet another field; realising that poor people are as competent and clever as the rich if they are given the opportunity to prove it is one more field; and we are also beginning to understand that migrants, refugees, abused and abusers, are as good as others if integrated, cared for and given luck and opportunities. Inclusion of people with various mental illnesses and disorders is also beginning to become more common.

Pakistan has deep gender disparities and many other inequalities between rich and poor, rural and urban, formally educated and those without education, and so on. There are many glass ceilings that must be broken. Hopefully we are on the right track, but I am not always sure. In the economic fields and with regards to workers’ rights, I think we are stagnating, even going in the wrong direction.

But Pakistan has also broken the glass ceiling in some fields, indeed with Benazir Bhutto becoming one of the first prime ministers in the world. In Bangladesh, a former sister-region of Pakistan, they have had women leaders for a long time. In USA, the land we earlier always heard was the most innovative and modern, they are only this year likely to get their first woman president; still the percentage of elected national politicians is lower than many developing countries.

Even in the left-wing European Labour parties, there are sometimes almost dynasty traditions. For example, the current Secretary General of NATO, a former Norwegian Prime Minister, is the son of a former government minister and senior diplomat. The legendary Swedish Prime Minister, also from the Labour Party, came from a wealthy family (not entirely unlike the Kennedy family in USA), and could spend all his time on politics with little worry for income and daily bread.

The current Norwegian Prime Minister, the second woman in the post in that country, Erna Solberg, is on the other hand from a lower middle-class family; she also has a handicap in having dyslexia, a reading and writing disorder. Therefore, it can be said that Solberg has broken the glass ceiling as she has succeeded against many odds, and she is a forceful and respected Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party.

In America, Hillary Clinton is breaking the glass ceiling as she is the first woman from a major party to be candidate for president. Yes, it was about time! As it was also about time that an Africa-American was elected president eight years ago when Barrack Obama became the superpower’s head of state.

Furthermore, Bernie Sanders and his ‘revolutionary’ left-oriented movement has also broken the glass ceiling in the presidential campaign in America this year, as a large organised opposition movement has been formed in the otherwise massive capitalist American economic, social and political system. That too was about time! If the movement is well maintained in the coming years, that wing of the Democratic Party may well win the presidency in four or eight years. In the world’s richest country, with growing poverty, even among employed people, there is indeed a great need to re-invent the political system. The country needs to make college and university education affordable for all, repair the legal system, collect more taxes from the wealthy and redistribute to the needy, and indeed get health and social welfare for all; it is the only rich Western country that has no paid maternity leave for women.

In the United Kingdom, the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn has much in common with Bernie Sanders’ political ideals. Yet, it should be easier to succeed in the UK because of the strong left-oriented traditions, sometimes even with socialist ideals. But all over Europe, the old social democratic labour parties need to renew their strategies and find more attractive ‘wrapping paper’ for their political proposals. Besides, the Conservative Party in the UK, similar to the American Republican Party, has managed to develop a centre-oriented, ‘conservative light’ party outlook, unlike the populist right-oriented American conservatives. In Europe, such far right-wing parties usually just get ten to fifteen percent of the votes.

If the new Prime Minister in the UK, Theresa May, will indeed do what she said in her inaugural speech, that her Conservative Party will indeed be fighting for all Britons, not only the upper segments and the private sector, then she too will be able to ‘break the class ceiling’ of her party and make UK a better land for all. And that would make the UK conservatives look more like the conservatives in Scandinavia and Germany. Then, they would actually be able to take over much of the centre-oriented labour party outlook both in terms of ideals and voters. Labour would have to learn from the movement Bernie Sanders has started in America. It is still important that there are large parties on the left, not only for the middle-class, but more so for the working class, and the downtrodden jobless and other outsiders. The conservatives will not act in their interest, even if they may seemingly speak for them.

Finally, today, I would like us all to contribute towards breaking the glass ceiling in one broad field, notably in developing a set of basic principles for how societies should be organised to be fair, democratic and all-inclusive, not only as for managing and sharing of material resources, but also for developing a set of universal values, which should be adopted by everyone, everywhere. The basic principle would be to make every child, adult and old person feel included, be they immigrants or indigenous, persons of any faith or none, and any other difference in outlook, opinion and behaviour, as long as it would not hurt others. We should develop societies which are based in solidarity and empathy with others. If we could do all this as a ‘minimum standard’, then we would indeed be breaking the glass ceiling and build a better world for all.

Good luck, America, a nation of immigrants, innovation, and good neighbourliness. And, good luck, Pakistan, a land of one of the kindest people on earth! Let us continue to seek God’s guidance in doing what is right for all; we would be breaking the last glass ceiling, and only the sky would be the limit.