The Glass Cliff: Evidence that Women are Over-Represented in Precarious Leadership Positions

Authors


Abstract

There has been much research and conjecture concerning the barriers women face in trying to climb the corporate ladder, with evidence suggesting that they typically confront a ‘glass ceiling’ while men are more likely to benefit from a ‘glass escalator’. But what happens when women do achieve leadership roles? And what sorts of positions are they given? This paper argues that while women are now achieving more high profile positions, they are more likely than men to find themselves on a ‘glass cliff’, such that their positions are risky or precarious. This hypothesis was investigated in an archival study examining the performance of FTSE 100 companies before and after the appointment of a male or female board member. The study revealed that during a period of overall stock-market decline those companies who appointed women to their boards were more likely to have experienced consistently bad performance in the preceding five months than those who appointed men. These results expose an additional, largely invisible, hurdle that women need to overcome in the workplace. Implications for the evaluation of women leaders are discussed and directions for future research are outlined.

Ancillary