Glass Cliff Effect and Its Impact on Leadership

A woman falling from a glass cliff may land on broken aspirations.



If you have recently heard about the term “glass cliff”, you may wonder what it means. Glass cliff theory was coined as a term in 2003 by Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam, and it was a response to a newspaper article that was published in The Times at that time. In this article, there was a report that suggested that the most prominent companies tend to perform below the average when the women are in the leading positions. According to the article, the women were responsible for the low performance at the companies, and they should be excluded from the leading positions in the British companies.

What is the glass cliff effect?

The glass cliff effect is a real-world phenomenon that describes the situation when women are promoted in organizations that have lower business results. At the same time, men are promoted in organizations that have good results and they are more likely to be promoted when everything is well in the company.

glass cliff theory

Consider all aspects as a woman or a woman of color before getting a leadership role in the company to avoid falling from a glass cliff. (Image: Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of TIAA)

What are some reasons for the glass cliff?

When the risks of failure are higher, the women and especially women of color are being promoted in order to avoid more risks. As a reason for the glass cliff phenomenon, we can see that companies want to transfer responsibility inside the company. Oftentimes the responsibility for the failure goes to women and women of color.

Why do so many female CEOs fall off it?

The above-mentioned researchers Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam found that companies that had female leaders were performing badly because the female leaders came to the leading positions in times of crisis. The companies were already struggling to perform well, and they promoted women in order to transfer responsibility.

It is hard to lead a company even when everything is fine. When things are going bad, the leading roles have many struggles to keep the company from falling apart.

What is the glass cliff quizlet?

There is an increased possibility of failure when women are in the leading positions at the company. Women of color are even more associated with failure and that is why the position of this kind of workforce needs to be questioned.

Many reasons exist for the glass cliff and some of them are very delicate. Men do not want to be in the CEO positions when the company is going down, and they want to avoid the complications in the leadership positions. At the same time, they tend to perform in a less productive manner when they are not in the higher positions inside the company. Their working ethics are lower and they tend to produce less work in the working assignments.

For all these reasons, white women and women of color have more struggles when they are in higher positions at companies.

How to prevent the glass cliff?

If you want to prevent the glass cliff, you must first recognize it and name it. If you are a white woman or woman of color, you should consider all of the aspects before getting a leadership role in the company. Investigate all of the aspects of the company and see if there is a risk of failure of the company’s business. If this is the case, do not take the leadership role and try to stay away from the higher management positions.

Christy Gren
Christy Gren is an Industry Specialist Reporter at Industry Leaders Magazine she enjoys writing about Unicorns, Silicon Valley, Startups, Business Leaders and Innovators. Her articles provide an insight about the Power Players in the field of Technology, Auto, Manufacturing, and F&B.

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