The Glass Cliff

The Glass Cliff

I know you’ve heard about the glass ceiling, but what about the glass cliff?

The glass cliff is a phenomenon in which women and minorities are often promoted to leadership positions in times of crisis or instability, which can lead to a higher likelihood of failure. This term was coined by researchers Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam in 2005. The concept is rooted in the idea that individuals from underrepresented groups are given leadership roles in situations where the odds are stacked against them.This trend can be seen across a range of industries, from politics to business.

A study by the Center for Talent Innovation found that Black women are more likely to experience bias in the workplace than any other group. This bias often leads to Black women being passed over for promotions and leadership positions, which can make them even more vulnerable to the glass cliff. 

When placed in this precarious position, Black women are expected to turn things around quickly, however they are often given limited resources to do so. Additionally, they often face resistance from employees who are not accustomed to having a black woman in a leadership position. This can create a hostile work environment that makes it even harder for them to succeed.

The glass cliff also impacts black women in other ways. 

  • For example, black women who do manage to succeed in leadership roles may not receive the same recognition and rewards as their white male counterparts. 
  • They may be viewed as “tokens” rather than as valuable leaders in their own right, which can be demotivating and can make it harder for them to advance in their careers.

In conclusion, the glass cliff is a real phenomenon that disproportionately impacts Black women. While this trend is concerning, it serves as a reminder to organizations to support Black women, rather than just relying on them to solve their problems. Addressing this issue requires organizations to be more intentional about creating inclusive environments that support the development and advancement of all employees, regardless of their gender, race, or other factors.



I’ve included some resources that may be helpful to understand the term ally a bit better:

  1. ⚡️ The Glass Cliff: Evidence that Women are Over Represented in Precarious Leadership Positions- link
  2. ⚡️ Black Women, Ready to Lead (Coqual) – link

Do you have any questions, comments or thoughts on the glass cliff? Leave a comment below and lets discuss.

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