Women in leadership have been talking about the glass ceiling for decades, but have you heard about the glass cliff? This term describes the phenomenon where women are promoted to positions of power only during times of company turmoil, when risk of failure is greatest.
Psychologists Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam uncovered the glass cliff after analyzing research on the London Stock Exchange. Their initial findings have been backed up by additional research in the U.S.
Some of the major takeaways of their findings include:
- Women are only offered CEO or board positions during times of company strife
- Statistically, women are given less time than their male counterparts to “clean up the mess”
- Women CEO’s are more likely to be targeted by activist investors
- Women CEO’s are 45% more likely to be ousted than male CEO’s
The number of women who head up large companies in the U.S. has actually declined over the past 15 years – today, only 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by women. This dip in women leadership can possibly be attributed to the glass cliff phenomenon. One high profile example of the glass cliff in action is Jill Abramson formerly of the New York Times. She was ousted and replaced by a man and since then, none of the top 10 U.S. newspapers have been led by women.
Despite the grim numbers surrounding the glass cliff phenomenon, there are steps high-achieving women can take to avoid falling off the glass cliff. Check out our infographic from Fundera below for 7 actionable tips to navigate the glass cliff.