How to navigate the glass cliff

When women in business finally shatter the glass ceiling, they are swiftly introduced to the glass cliff.

This phenomenon describes how high-performing women promoted during times of company turmoil, when risk of failure is the greatest.

Women are then more likely to be challenged by male investors, given less time to turn things around than their male counterparts, and 45 per cent more likely to be ousted.

The glass cliff was discovered by psychologists Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam. Their research was in response to a blistering U.K. Times article that said after analysing statistics of 100 companies on the London Stock Exchange, business boards that featured women were more likely to be underperforming. Ryan and Haslam took a closer look at the numbers and discovered that the reason for low numbers is because women were only placed on boards when companies were underperforming, not because women were less capable than men.

One popular example of the glass cliff is Carly Fiorina. She was appointed as CEO at Hewlett-Packard as a transformational leader during a time of low performance. She was able to jump stock prices up 6.5 per cent until the dot-com bubble burst. She made a controversial decision to pursue a merger and lay off 30,000 employees. After a fight with board member Walter Hewlett, Carly was fired. Afterwards, the board acknowledged that her merger would have been the right move.

Some other popular examples include Jill Abramson formerly of the New York Times and Carol Bartz, formerly of Yahoo.

Although the numbers aren’t on our side – only 4.8 per cent of Fortune 500 companies are led by women currently, and these numbers are lower than in previous years – women can take steps to avoid falling off the glass cliff.

Read on to discover seven ways you can navigate the glass cliff:

What is the Glass Cliff?

Image credit: Fundera

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