Women in High Places Perch on 'Glass Cliff'

Researchers find that female executives are forced to take higher job risks


| October 28, 2004


When The Times, a UK newspaper, reported that women in high-level corporate jobs were failures, cursing their companies with sub-par performance, Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam decided to investigate the article's claims. The gender researchers from the University of Exeter found that while women were generally under-represented in the business world, they were over-represented in high-risk positions, suggesting the presence of a 'glass cliff' for those who penetrated the ever present 'glass ceiling.'

Ryan and Haslam discovered that women are more likely to get significant career advancement when a job has a higher probability of failure, while men are more likely to be recruited into stable positions. Despite these rigged odds, many women have risen to the challenge. In fact, 63 percent of women given inherently risky jobs actually increased company performance after five months (the newspaper article in question had only looked at short-term performance). The glass cliff is still a precarious place to find oneself, however. Often, once the difficult task at hand has been accomplished, a man is positioned to reclaim the post. While other women find they're in power just long enough to take the fall for the sins of their predecessors.
-- Brendan Themes

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