Reasons for the glass cliff as given by women vs. men (Ryan, Haslam & Postmes 2007).

Today’s talk by Professor Michelle Ryan of the University of Exeter at the Fogg Lecture Theatre on the glass cliff led to the following conclusions (from her final slide):

  • women’s experiences in the workplace are very different from their male counterparts;
  • equal opportunity is about the nature of leadership positions as well as the numbers; and,
  • it is important to note that the quantity of women given senior positions is low, but also that the quality of those positions is typically low too.
Motivation for Ryan’s glass cliff project: Times article, “Women on Board: Help or Hinderance” (Judge, 2003)

Motivation for her glass cliff project came from a 2003 Times article, ‘Women on Board: Help or Hindrence’ (Judge, 2003) that claimed companies with women in their board rooms tend to underperform, thus women leaders must be wreaking havoc on organisations’ performances.  Subsequent systematic research revealed that women tend to be disproportionately appointed to leadership positions when companies are failing, and that companies that appointed women during financial downturns actually experienced marked increase in share prices.

More on her work can be heard on BBC Radio 4’s woman’s hour archive:

Michelle Ryan: Women Singled Out for Inferior Positions?

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