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How To Avoid Falling Off The Glass Cliff In Your Career

Despite progress on all fronts, women still face significant barriers to success in the workplace. If dealing with underrepresentation, pay inequality, sexual harassment, and discrimination wasn’t enough of a burden to bear, highly qualified and experienced women still struggle to advance in their careers.

Though the situation of women in working environments is currently the best it’s ever been, the continued hurdles to success are enough to keep capable women from even trying to take their careers past a certain point. Namely, because women make on average 77 cents to every $1 a man makes, less women aspire to management roles. With tricky phenomenons like the glass ceiling, it’s no wonder women reach discouragement in their career pursuits.

The analogy of the glass ceiling is most commonly known by professionals regardless of gender — this invisible barrier holds women back from climbing the ranks in their respective professions. For those that do reach the top ranks, however, there is yet another tricky phenomenon lying in wait to potentially take the hard-earned success away: the glass cliff.

A concept first put forth by Michelle Ryan and Alexander Haslam, of the University of Exeter, the glass cliff is best described as a company appointing a female leader as a unique agent of change, but only when such company is in the midst of a challenging period or lessened business performance. When the chosen female executive is unable to drastically improve a suffering company or is slow to create change, she is then ousted. Most notably, women CEOs are 45 percent more likely to be fired from CEO roles than men but are given less time to turn things around.

As a situation that essentially sets up high-performing women to fail, it would make sense for professional women to outright avoid taking on risky leadership positions. However, while a male may feel he has the ability to walk away and pick up a different role in the face of risk, a woman in a similar situation could see such a leadership role as the only opportunity for advancement, no matter how precarious the situation.

How To Avoid Falling Off The Glass Cliff In Your Career - Lioness Magazine
Meredith Wood

So, how to approach the glass cliff without tumbling down? It bears mentioning that women require a degree of both empowerment and advocacy that male counterparts do not. Successfully advancing despite the loom of the glass cliff starts with carefully observing industry trends to get a feel for where the company could be headed, considering the level of risk in salary negotiations to ensure compensation is fair, and asking for a clear definition of performance metrics in the role to get an idea of what success will look like.

Though a tricky paradox to navigate, the glass cliff is yet another workplace obstacle that is no match for well-informed, empowered women. A business’ HR department, too, should be aware of the difficulty of the glass cliff and bear it in mind when promoting women to executive roles. For more tips to navigate the glass cliff, check out the infographic from Fundera below.

Courtesy of

What is the Glass Cliff?

Meredith Wood is Editor-in-Chief at Fundera. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.

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