If you know anything about women’s rights, you would have heard the term ‘glass ceiling’. The term describes the invisible – hence glass – barrier that can prevent women from senior leadership roles. Popularised in the 1980s the effect has attracted a great deal of research with studies identifying organisational practised and interpersonal biases that inhibit female advancement in the workplace. 

This morning, however, marks the first time that I, a woman in business, heard the term ‘glass cliff’. More recently recognized, this phenomenon refers to the disproportionate representation of women in senior leadership positions that are particularly risky and precarious. A brilliant article by Vox published in 2018 titled “Why struggling companies promote women: the glass cliff, explained”. The article reads the following;

‘J.C. Penney has had a rough few years. The retailer has posted losses quarter after quarter, closed dozens of stores, and struggled to find its footing in a changing consumer landscape. This month, the company announced it was bringing on its first woman CEO — Jill Soltau, the former president and CEO of Joann, the fabric and craft store chain […] she’s coming into a challenging industry with no guarantee of success. A struggling company bringing on a woman to help right the ship is a common play — a phenomenon known as the “glass cliff”’. 

Most recently in the list of popularised glass cliff play is Musk’s handing over of a collapsed Twitter to Linda Yaccarino. How unique! A white man makes a mess and calls a Latina to clean up his mess?… 

Researchers who came up with the term glass cliff in 2005 even conducted a study of companies that appointed women as CEO. The study found that companies with a newly appointed female CEO were significantly more likely to have experienced some recent dire financial straits or significant struggles in the prior months before her appointment as CEO. This is a way to shoehorn some mess onto the female leader. 

In a way, as much as I dislike her, this is what David Cameron and the Tories did to Teresa May. May got a lot of hate – and a lot of it deserved – but many of her failings were a hangover from Cameron’s incompetencies. 

This way, if Twitter files for bankruptcy in a year, we won’t blame the white male Tesla genius, we will blame the Latina… 

N.B: This article was written by a Latina 

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