Ladies face 'glass cliff' after breaking 'glass ceiling'
Prof: Chaps only let women drive when disaster looms
A trick-cyclist in Exeter says that women rising to high leaderships positions in business and politics - so having broken through the "glass ceiling" - are then faced by the additional menace of a "glass cliff".
Dr Michelle Ryan and colleagues at Exeter Uni lay out their research in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly*. Essentially the theory of the "glass cliff" has it that women tend only to be appointed to senior leadership positions when the organisation to be led faces crisis and everything is likely to go wrong, leading to a dearth of men willing to take the helm.
According to the profs:
In the EU women make up just over ten percent of the top executive positions in the top fifty publicly quoted companies, and in the U.S. female leaders occupy less than sixteen percent of these positions in the Fortune 500. As women continue to be under-represented in politics and business, this stereotype is often reinforced and self-perpetuating.
The example chosen by Dr Ryan and her collaborators in their study is not business, however, but that of election campaigns for Conservative Party MPs. It seems that in the 2005 election, Tory selectors in safe seats mostly put forward men, whereas in constituencies where there wasn't much chance of a win they generally chose women - thus facing them with the "glass cliff" of an all but impossible election campaign.
"Gender discrimination in politics can be subtle and difficult to identify," says Ryan. "Women continue to be under-represented in political office and often face a more difficult political task than men."
Her paper, Politics and the Glass Cliff, can be read here (subscription only). ®
*In case you were wondering:
Psychology of Women Quarterly (PWQ) is a feminist journal that publishes primarily qualitative and quantitative research with substantive and theoretical merit... Topics include... lifespan role development and change... physical, sexual, and psychological abuse; violence and harassment; prejudice and discrimination... sexuality, sexual orientation, and heterosexism... Literary analyses do not fall within the purview of the journal.
Some sympathies but better analysis required
I have some sympathies with research that suggests either glass ceilings or even glass cliffs as in this case. But I would like to see some proper research done into why the glass ceiling exists. It could exist because women aren't being given the opportunities, it could also exist because there aren't sufficient women at lower levels in the organisation feeding into the upper echelons. My suspicion is a combination of both, but I would like to justify the argument about feeders.
I've been a senior manager in the IT industry for many years. I will interview anyone whose CV crosses my desk with reasonable C++ knowledge. In the many years in IT, I've never interviewed a woman for a C++ job. I have worked with a few, but they are few and far between. At university, the engineering faculty had about 10% women, but the Computing faculty had no female students whatsoever. I would love my industry to have more women in it, because I believe they bring some different dimensions. The software I write has to be used by both men and women for example.
What I would like to see is the statistics mentioned in the article about leaders in the top 50 companies backed up with statistics about the number of women at lower levels in the same companies. If I browse down the start of the fortune 500 companies, I see plenty of energy companies (eg ExxonMobil), plenty of engineering companies (eg GE, GM, Ford), plenty of IT/Telecoms companies (eg Verizon, Microsoft) and plenty of financial services (eg Citi, BoA, MS). I suspect that all of these industries are dominated at the lower levels by men. It would be really good to see percentages of men and women at each level in the pyramid in these companies. That would give us a much stronger indication of whether the big companies don't recruit enough women (either because of policy - which I doubt - or because insufficient women are interesting in that industry), or whether they are genuinely hitting a glass ceiling somewhere in the pyramid.
Going straight for the jugular and saying that there isn't a 50/50 split at the highest level is useless if you don't deal with what the split is at lower levels. It is no different to saying that there are more Chinese than Americans in the world, so why aren't there more Chinese people at the heads of the Fortune Global 500 than Americans.
Can we have a pointless manipulated statistics icon please?
Doesn't leadership usually change just before a crisis?
Either because the current leader sees the crisis approaching and gets out before it hits, or because the board notice the current leader's failings and get rid of them.
So the vast majority of 'changes of leadership' happen just before a 'glass cliff' - presumably sometimes the crisis is averted, on other occasions it is not.
Most of these kinds of study are fundamentally flawed and essentially useless, because they start with an assumption then look for evidence to support that assumption.
That's just plain wrong, and isn't Science. (It's politics, actually.)
Start with the evidence, and look for what that evidence suggests. Produce a hypothesis, try to knock it down - this is Science.
Here's the critical flaw:
In those 'safe seats', how many were incumbents? (The selected person had a seat already)
Compare that to the 'dodgy' seats - what percentage were 'new', and did not previously hold a seat.
My guess (given how these usually work), is that the vast majority of openings were in dodgy seats. Therefore, these were the only seats where 'new' people of any sex could attempt to take a seat. Given the distribution of male/female for incumbents, it becomes *certain* that there will be a greater proportion of male candidates for safe seats than for 'dodgy' seats.
The valid comparison is between *available* seats and *new* candidates. Comparing incumbents to new people will always show the old bias, and not any change in bias.
What a sad take on life - if a business fails with a man at the top, the failure was his fault. If a business fails with a woman at the top, a man is still to blame because he put her there.
Here's what everyone taking a position of leadership throughout history has had to accept: if something bad happens, it's all *your* fault. Ask any politician...
I don't see any women complaining about the glass floor, below which men are expected to shut up and get on with it but women can suddenly decide that no, actually, they'd rather not work at all and can become "homemakers". If any female coal miners or sewer maintenance engineers are offended by that, then I apologise unreservedly. Everyone else can suck it.
weren't her problems more to do with ...
CF being shit at her job?