Women are more struggling in reaching a strategic position at the company.


Today, women are still in a lagging position regarding a leadership role in the business. According to Pew Research, only 26 women have a role as a CEO in a Fortune 500 which means only 5.2% of all population of women.

The numbers are still the same for women that are positioned as a CEO in Fortune 1000. It's around 5.4%. It shows that only a small movement of women can reach a higher position as a leader in the company. 

As organizations reinforce masculine qualities through rewards and incentives images such as 'the glass ceiling' or 'the glass cliff'. Glass cliff refers to the phenomenon of women in leadership roles, such as business executives in the corporate world and female candidates for political office, being more likely than men to be promoted to leadership roles during periods of crisis or downturn, when the chance of failure is highest.

Why are women still falling off the glass cliff?

It isn’t just that women and other underrepresented groups are set up to fail or put in as scapegoats; it’s also due to an outgrowth of beliefs about women’s leadership styles. In times of crisis, organizations might try and lean toward more stereotypically feminine traits.

So whether that’s because we typically have men in leadership roles, having a woman would mean trying something different, or whether it’s because there are particular aspects of crises that [organizations believe] need those stereotypical feminine traits. But while it may seem like a boost of confidence that a company will turn to women to lead in a time of crisis, it’s a symptom of thinking of white cis men as the default “normal” leader.


Photo Courtesy of Daily Times


This can then be a self-reinforcing cycle. If women are the exception to the rule in leadership roles and are mostly in charge of troubled companies, and they fail or struggle, we generalize that’s a characteristic of women in general. If a man is in a leadership role and doesn’t do so well, no one says, ‘Oh, well, you know, men are no good at leadership.’ It’s just him as an individual.”

What do companies hope to gain from a glass cliff?

The glass cliff effectively maintains the status quo because it can reinforce the harmful idea that women and people of color can't lead. When women or minorities are promoted to leadership positions without the support they need and are not successful, the assumption is that they were not successful because women and minorities are not good leaders.

How can women avoid a glass cliff?

Companies need to put measures in place to ensure that women and people of color in senior leadership positions have all of the resources they need to be successful. While there are things that women and minorities can do to make it less likely that they'll find themselves in an impossible "glass cliff" scenario, the onus is really on companies to prevent this phenomenon from happening. Companies can offer women-specific leadership development tracks and conduct blind hiring to lessen the effects of unconscious bias.




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