Women often break the “glass ceiling” to get a job. However, when women get an executive job, they often face a “glass cliff.” As explained in “Introducing… the glass cliff” by pychologists Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam in BBC News on May 28, 2004:
“Forget the glass ceiling. The big threat to women’s success in top roles is now the ‘glass cliff’ - being promoted into risky, difficult jobs where the chances of failure are higher.”
Ryan and Haslam wrote papers on the “glass cliff” in 2005 and 2007, and the term went viral in the media in 2014 and 2015.
Wikipedia: Glass cliff
The glass cliff is a term that describes the phenomenon of women in leadership roles, such as executives in the corporate world and women political election candidates, being likelier than men to be put in leadership roles during periods of crisis or downturn, when the chance of failure is highest.
The term was coined in 2004 by British professors Michelle K. Ryan and Alex Haslam of University of Exeter, United Kingdom. Ryan and Haslam examined the performance of FTSE 100 companies before and after the appointment of new board members, and found that companies that appointed women to their boards were likelier than others to have experienced consistently bad performance in the preceding five months. This work eventually developed into the identification of a phenomenon known as the glass cliff. Since the term originated, its use has expanded beyond the corporate world to also encompass politics and other domains.
Last Updated: Friday, 28 May, 2004, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK
Introducing… the glass cliff
By Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam
Forget the glass ceiling. The big threat to women’s success in top roles is now the ‘glass cliff’ - being promoted into risky, difficult jobs where the chances of failure are higher.
Women are “smashing through the glass ceiling” of the country’s top businesses, a report in the Times last November said.
Numbers of female directors on the boards of FTSE 100 companies had risen by 20% in the previous 12 months, it said. But the article posed a thorny question: “Women on board: A help or a hindrance?” and went on to conclude, in no uncertain terms, that women are a hindrance.
Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Women looking over glass cliffs
By Paul Rincon
BBC News Online science staff, at the BA festival
Women are being “parachuted” into precarious positions within companies where there is a high risk of failure, according to a psychologist.
This “glass cliff” may represent a new form of subtle discrimination against minorities, Prof Alex Haslam believes.
His data suggests women are only being hired to leadership positions once a company is doing badly.
The results of his study are being presented at the British Association’s Festival of Science in Exeter.
Wiley Online Library
The Glass Cliff: Evidence that Women are Over-Represented in Precarious Leadership Positions
Michelle K. Ryan and S. Alexander Haslam
British Journal of Management
Volume 16, Issue 2, pages 81–90, June 2005
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.
Posted: January 3, 2007
n. A senior job or important project, particularly one given to a woman, with a high risk of failure.
The Glass Cliff: Exploring the Dynamics Surrounding the Appointment of Women to Precarious Leadership Positions
Michelle K. Ryan and S. Alexander Haslam
The Academy of Management Review
Vol. 32, No. 2 (Apr., 2007), pp. 549-572
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory (June 13, 2013)
From Glass Ceiling to Glass Cliff: Women in Senior Executive Service
University of Texas at Dallas
The dominant paradigm that frames the challenges women face in attaining upward mobility has been the glass ceiling metaphor. However, over the last decades women have made steady progress and are moving to positions of leadership. Women in leadership positions continue to face an uphill battle; they often are placed in precarious positions setting them up for failure and pushing them over the edge—a phenomenon recently termed as “glass cliff.” Using data from the 2010 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, this research examines the challenges women face in Senior Executive Service (SES) in various US federal government agencies (distributive, redistributive, regulatory, and constituent policy). The study is based on three widely discussed theories in the field of social psychology—think-manager-think-male, social role theory, and role incongruity theory. The study findings indicate that SES women in distributive and constituent policy agencies are most likely to face glass cliffs. The odds of women falling off the cliff are less when women have influence over policymaking decisions, perceive empowerment, and experience organizational equities.
Believe it or not, another ridiculous term coined by women’s groups, meaning that women business owners are more likely to lose their position of power, and/or fail their business once they break through this so called “glass ceiling.” Pretty much just another stupid excuse to get more governmental funding.
I’ve got a solution, why don’t you quit your whining and actually earn your way to the top instead of constantly demanding the government to do the work for you. Here’s a surprising fact: the more experienced a business owner is, the less likely the business will fail.
by MGTOW for life September 22, 2013
Why women are often put in charge of failing companies
BY MARIANNE COOPER September 22, 2015 at 5:00 PM EST
Discovered by psychology professors Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam, the glass cliff is a phenomenon in which women are more likely to be put into leadership roles under risky and precarious circumstances. By taking the helm during difficult times, their odds of failure are often higher.
Over the last 10 years, research in a variety of contexts has repeatedly documented the glass cliff.
Women at Work: Navigating the “Glass Cliff.”
Published on Oct 20, 2015
A barrier that sometimes prevents women from reaching top management positions is called a “glass ceiling.” But new research shows that women are better positioned to break through that glass ceiling when an organization is experiencing a crisis—finding themselves on what many researchers call “a glass cliff.” Shraysi Tandon filed this report from New York.
RN Breakfast (Australia)
Breaking through the glass ceiling, only to reach ‘’the glass cliff’
Tuesday 1 December 2015 8:17AM
The proportion of women in CEO or business leadership roles actually dipped slightly to just 15.4 per cent.
But what about the women who have managed to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ and score one of those top jobs?
According to the report, they’ll face a new hazard called ‘the glass cliff’—a term coined by organisational psychologist, Professor Michelle Ryan.