Women Are Being Pushed Off the Edge of the Glass Cliff

One of the primary reasons that hold women leaders back is the so-called “glass cliff.” Here’s how it’s keeping women from leadership roles, how it’s different from the glass ceiling and what you can do to prevent it.

You’ve probably heard of the glass ceiling when it comes to women in the workplace, but the “glass cliff” is just as harmful.

Whereas the glass ceiling is a metaphor for the barrier women face in the workplace, the “glass cliff” builds on that idea — it’s the phenomenon in which female executives are only given leadership roles in seemingly impossible situations like crises, economic collapses or negative public relations incidents. Women are seen as the right choice to clean up a mess, but not to lead when times are good. Even today, there are recent examples of this including Marissa Mayer‘s tenure at Yahoo, Jill Soltau‘s time overseeing the collapse of J.C. Penney, Peggy Johnson at Magic Leap and Heyward Donigan at Rite Aid.

The glass cliff phenomenon is further backed by academic research:

  • Researchers at the University of Exeter found that women are more likely to be appointed as CEOs in companies that have performed poorly in the past, compared to men.
  • Columbia Business School found that women are more likely to be appointed to leadership positions in companies that are in crisis, compared to men. The study also found that women…


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