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Dissecting the ‘glass cliff effect’. Is it helpful for women?

Glass Cliff effect: Promoting women in leadership positions at times of crisis, how helpful is that for women?

Promoting women to take up leadership positions is the need of the hour. Women have long been underestimated and doubted for their leadership qualities and the patriarchal society has long been pulling them back from having an equal leadership opportunity. And so, to give women an opportunity to hold a leadership position, the glass cliff effect comes into the picture.

What is the glass cliff effect?

The glass cliff effect or is a phenomenon in which a woman is promoted to a top leadership position at a time when the organization is facing a significant risk of collapse, essentially, what we can call a ‘crisis situation’. This phenomenon is to allow women to break the glass ceiling.

Glass ceiling: Class ceiling is a metaphorical term used for unspoken and hidden cultural barriers that pull women back from rising in the corporate structures, organizations politics, etc.

Is glass cliff actually progressive?

Well, the outlook of the glass cliff effect may make it be like something very progressive, as after all, it is supporting women, and promoting women even in difficult situations but it certainly is not. As per the glass cliff effect, women are put into difficult situations, in situations when the company is likely to collapse. So, the chance that the company will collapse is already there, and in that situation, the glass ceiling effect picks women so as to blame the situation on someone.

Having women in leadership always shows the organization as progressive

Of course, there is a need to give leadership positions to women, but at the time of a collapse, this all of sudden activism doesn’t make sense. What is probably does is allows the organization to have a good image of themselves as they promote women, they are breaking the glass ceiling.

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Are women better leaders during crisis?

Though, research by Haward Business Review suggests that women are better leaders during a crisis: So, this can be one reason why women are likable candidates during the crisis situation. Though, this reason is very unlikely to be digested as an organization that doesn’t prefer women to hold accountability and leadership in a steady situation will fall back on women in a difficult situation sounds fishy.

Women who accept the glass ceiling accept the risks

Keeping the decision of employers and organization promoting women in difficult situations aside, the act of women accepting the leadership roles in difficult situations shows their acceptance of risk.

In a study by Cook and Grass on Science Direct, it’s discovered that to be outshined and visible, and for people to see their talents, women are proactive in taking up the challenging situations for themselves.

So, how should a glass cliff be addressed?

well, the glass cliff effect will not have been all that bad if the larger idea of the organization is to allow women to take up a difficult situation as they have better crisis management skills or are holistically better to a leader among the team exists. And this criticism should definitely not be used to avoid promoting women from taking up leadership. But what should be observed is the pattern. If when everything is good and women are not promoted, and of all odds, when things are upsetting and women are being promoted now, then there is scope for doubt for the glass cliff effect.

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Ishika Aggarwal

Can write, shoot, listen, talk and procrastinate. A feminist at heart, Ishika is an avid writer and multimedia person who loves talking about women, realism, and society. When not working she is either seen watching films or making one.
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