What is the Glass Cliff?

Glass Cliff Infographic

Women in business have long talked about challenges surrounding shattering the proverbial glass ceiling. Unfortunately, once they do climb to the top of the corporate ladder, they can be swiftly introduced to the glass cliff.

The glass cliff is a well documented phenomenon that see women promoted to top positions during company downturn, when the risk of failure is greatest.

Women continue to make huge strides in business, from securing business loans to getting more graduate degrees than men, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before women achieve workplace equality.

Sadly, the number of women who lead Fortune 500 companies has actually declined and now sits at just 4.8 percent. The glass ceiling is one way women are still actively hindered in the workplace.

Research surrounding the glass cliff revealed that women are given top leadership positions when companies are performing poorly. When a woman does take over for a change of pace, she’s given less time to turn things around than a male leader and she’s 15 times more likely to be challenged by activist investors. Even more startling is the statistic that women leaders are 45% more likely to be ousted than their male counterparts!

Although the numbers surrounding the glass cliff can be hard to swallow, informing yourself is the best way to avoid becoming a part of another statistic. Here are a few actionable tips you can take to avoid the glass cliff:

  1. Believe in Yourself: One study showed that decisiveness, rather than results, makes you 12 times more likely to be considered a high-performing executive. Be confident in your decisions and your board will be confident in you.
  2. Define Success Before You Accept: Have the board define your performance expectations before you accept the offer. This will help you avoid being targeted by investors and it also lets you evaluate what you’re really being asked to do. Get all expectations in writing so if the board does try to oust you, you have documentation that can help you keep your job.
  3. Include Risk in Your Salary Negotiations: If you know it’s a risky move, say so – and argue for risk in your salary negotiations. The extra money will help cushion the blow if you are pushed out prematurely.

Discover even more ways to navigate the glass cliff by checking out our infographic from Fundera above.


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