Why women are more likely to be thrown off the glass cliff: Study | Women's Agenda

Why women are more likely to be thrown off the glass cliff: Study

Women already face plenty of impediments getting the top jobs. But even once they reach such positions there are numerous challenges to come, according to new research.

The 2013 Chief Executive Study: Women CEOs of the last 10 years finds that women are more likely to be “pushed off the glass cliff” than men and abruptly fired.

The research by global management consultancy firm Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company) examining 2,500 of the largest public companies in the world found that while women represent just 3% of top positions, their tenures are more likely to be shorter than their male counterparts.

They’re also more likely to find themselves forced out of such positions at a significantly higher rate than men. Over the past decade 27% of male CEOs left companies because they were fired, compared with the 38% of women who were forced out of those positions, the research found.

And the reason women are more likely to be fired could be that they’re more likely to be hired from outside the company, rather than promoted from within (35% of women were external hires, compared with 22% of men), and therefore face more risk.

“Women are more often outsiders,” says the research co-author Ken Favaro. “So they’re more vulnerable. They don’t know the organisation. They can’t diagnose the problems as quickly and don’t understand the culture or how to get it to work for them – and they aren’t necessarily given more time to deliver.”

Why these women fail could be attributed to the “glass cliff theory,” when companies promote women to leadership roles in times of crisis. As Leonid Bershidsky at BloombergView points out, “When these women fail — and in a crisis, the probability of failure is higher — boardrooms fall back on tradition. They replace the women with white men who have lots of industry experience.”

This sentiment is echoed by Favaro, who says that because boards tend to still be a male-dominated arena, women will continue to be disadvantaged. “We tend to like those that are most like us,” says Favaro.

“Sadly, company boards are still mostly men, and they’re more inclined to pull the trigger on women if things aren’t working out. Women are treated more harshly by men because there aremore men in the boardroom.”

These findings comes at a time when the conversation has been heavily dominated with news of the high profile departures of female editors at Le Monde and the New York Times, with accusations over gender discrimination and pay equity.

Favaro told The Guardian that Jill Abramson’s abrupt dismissal as executive editor of the Times, “was not inconsistent” with the findings of the study. “She wasn’t given a whole lot of time to develop her track record and earn her tenure.”

It’s not all bad news though. Based on this research data and anticipated growth rates, the consultancy predicts the number of female CEOs will increase dramatically in the future, with one third of new CEO appointments going to women by 2040.

What do you think? Does the ‘Glass cliff’ theory exist?

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