The Glass Cliff
- Clara KulichClara KulichUnité de Psychologie Sociale, Université de Genève
- and Michelle K. RyanMichelle K. RyanDean of Postgraduate Research and Director of the Doctoral College, University of Exeter
A wealth of research has previously shown that gender stereotypes and discrimination keep women from climbing the corporate ladder. However, women who do break through the “glass ceiling” are likely to face new barriers. Research on the glass cliff phenomenon shows that, when women reach positions of power, they tend to do so in circumstances of crisis and instability. A number of archival, experimental, and qualitative studies have demonstrated that women are more likely to rise in the professional hierarchy in difficult, and for these women, potentially harmful, situations. For example, compared to their male peers, women are seen as more desirable for managerial or political leadership positions in times of instability and crises, or following scandals. Such appointments expose women to a higher risk of failure, criticism, and psychological distress, thus a danger of falling off an “invisible” cliff.