An effort championed by the Labor Department to help women and minorities gain access to the highest reaches of corporate America is about to get a boost from Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.).

Dole today will introduce the Glass Ceiling Act of 1991, a legislative proposal to create a 21-member commission to recommend ways to break through the "glass ceiling" that has kept women and minorities for the most part out of top management jobs.

The commission would be appointed by the White House and Congress and headed by the secretary of labor. Membership would include corporate and academic leaders as well as representatives of women's and minority groups.

The panel would have 15 months to hold hearings and issue a report recommending policy changes to "promote the upward mobility of women and minorities to executive management and senior decision-making positions in business."

The focus of the group would be to determine how businesses fill executive management positions and the kinds of training and help they give to management candidates as they progress up the corporate ladder. Specifically, the commission would examine compensation programs and other rewards commonly used by business to attract and train top managers.

The initiative is part of a larger legislative proposal, the Women's Equal Opportunity Act of 1991, which deals with a variety of issues that affect women, such as sexual harassment and domestic and street violence. The proposal also will look at the possible need to expand existing civil rights laws in this area.

An aide to Dole said the package is designed to heighten awareness of the glass ceiling. "This will give it more prominence and visibility. It's a fairness issue that we care about," the aide said. He said Dole is concerned about the glass ceiling as a workplace problem that needs to resolved.

Former labor secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole, the senator's spouse, had made the glass ceiling a priority during her two years at the department. The department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which enforces anti-discrimination laws among federal contractors -- a universe that includes the Fortune 500 companies -- is about to complete a study of several major corporations to determine the causes and remedies for such discrimination.

The department hopes to complete its glass-ceiling study late this month and issue a report in March. The report is expected to serve as a guideline for stepped-up enforcement against companies that routinely discriminate in the promotion of women and minorities. Companies found guilty of discrimination by the department could be barred from receiving future federal contracts.