Article

Is there a "Glass cliff or a solid ledge for female appointees to the board of directors?

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Abstract

Ryan and Haslam (2005) report that women are appointed to senior leadership roles at firms that have recently experienced poor financial performance thus placing the appointee in a precarious position with a higher probability of failure. In contrast to the widely cited concept of the "glass ceiling," Ryan and Haslam's view their 2005 result as evidence of a "glass cliff" for females. However, there has been limited empirical support for this view, plus some contradictory findings (Adams, Gupta, and Leeth, 2009). To further test Ryan and Haslam's hypothesis, this study uses a larger and updated dataset of female board member appointments for Canada. The findings, based on a matched sample methodology, suggest that the glass cliff phenomenon is not apparent for board level appointments made in Canada. In fact, the finding of superior stock market performance in the pre-appointment period for companies appointing female directors may suggest the existence of a solid ledge, not a glass cliff, for female board appointees. In addition, the finding of superior market performance in the post-appointment period for companies that appoint males to the board supports Judge's (2003) antidotal study that motivated this type of research. Overall, the paper further advances the research concerning the theory of a glass cliff.

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... Some studies even find opposite effects. In Canada, Hennessey, MacDonald, and Carroll (2014) find that women enter corporate board positions when companies are experiencing strong stock market performance, thus meet a "solid ledge" not a glass cliff. Similarly, Adams, Gupta, and Leeth (2009) find that women are appointed to leadership positions in US firms when the firms are in good financial health. ...
... The seeming contradiction in these measures may point toward a short-term vs. long-term distinction: perhaps women are appointed under conditions of longer-term financial healthrequired to build a fund balance and take care of capital assetsbut short-term spending. If so, these findings contradict the glass cliff and, rather, suggest a "solid ledge" similar to that found by Hennessey, MacDonald, and Carroll (2014) and Adams, Gupta, and Leeth (2009). ...
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Women are still underrepresented as public-sector organizational leaders, despite comprising half of the United States public-sector workforce. To explore the factors driving gender imbalance, this Element employs a problem-driven approach to examine gender imbalance in local government management. We use multiple methods, inductive and deductive research, and different theoretical frames for exploring why so few women are city or county managers. Our interviews, resume analysis and secondary data analysis suggesting that women in local government management face a complex puzzle of gendered experiences, career paths and appointment circumstances that lend insights into gender imbalanced leadership in this domain.
... Also, researchers such as Bruckmüller et al. (2014, p. 207) point out that women are more likely to be appointed to lead companies "in situation of crisis", as they are often thought to possess "soft skills" or competence in handling situations involving other people. Such situations place them in environments which are associated with a relatively higher levels of stress and probability of failure in management (Hennessey et al., 2014), although as pointed out by Hunt-Earle (2012), ambitious women managers may also view such high-risk situations to be more of an opportunity to prove their leadership skills and climb up the management ladder. ...
... CEO position for women (1999) examined the glass ceiling issue in relation to the female representation on the corporate boards. With regards to the glass cliff phenomenon, Sabharwal (2013) investigated the intention of women in senior executive services in US federal government agencies to leave their jobs within a year using four key variables (influence over policies, empowerment, organizational justice/equity and work-life balance issues), while Hennessey et al. (2014) examined whether the appointment of women to the Board of Directors is influenced by security market performance of companies. Hunt-Earle (2012) studied the glass cliff phenomenon through application to the recruitment industry. ...
... The glass cliff phenomenon is currently a debated theory, however. For example, bothAdams, Gupta, and Leeth (2009) and Hennessey, MacDonald, and Carroll (2014) find that women were appointed CEOs or to the board of directors in companies that had stronger stock market performances. ...
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The purpose of this study is to examine how organizational resources affect the gender gap within lay (volunteer) leadership in religious congregations. Using institutional theory as a framework, this study situates congregations within a larger field of organizations competing for legitimacy. Congregations with higher levels of resources—such as wealthier members, better‐educated members, or larger memberships—are more likely to be connected to the core of the field and therefore more likely to have gender egalitarian practices in order to signal their legitimacy. Therefore, I hypothesize that women in resource‐rich congregations will have greater access to volunteer leadership positions than women in congregations that are resource deficient. I analyze 70,942 individuals in 344 religious congregations from the 2001 U.S. Congregational Life Survey using multilevel modeling. I show that religious congregations with more members, better‐educated attenders, and wealthier attenders have smaller gender gaps in volunteer leadership positions. Congregational resources can mitigate the gender gap in lay leadership, and women within resource‐rich organizations have greater access to positions of authority.
... Heterogeneous variables have been used to test possible determinants of glass cliff effects. One research strand focuses on firm performance (accounting-and/or market-based), as represented by Bechtoldt et al. (2016), Cook and Glass (2014a;2014b), Hennessey et al. (2014), Cook and Glass (2011), Haslam et al. (2010), Adams et al. (2009) and Ryan and Haslam (2005). Other research relates to occurrence of an initial loss (Mulcahy & Lineham, 2014); financial distress (Santen & Donker, 2009) or economic crisis ( Sun et al., 2015); shareholder activism ( Gupta et al., 2017); risk of CEO turnover (Elsaid & Ursel, 2017) or a mix of different risk factors (Sabharwal, 2015;Smith, 2015;Smith & Monaghan, 2013;Brady et al., 2011). ...
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Following thirty years of discussion of the “glass ceiling,” recent empirical research has focused on the relatively new phenomenon of women on the board of directors—the so-called “glass cliff.” This refers to a form of gender discrimination in which women are more often appointed to leadership positions in risky and precarious business circumstances than their male counterparts. Highlighting the key findings of current quantitative and qualitative research, this literature review assesses existing support for the glass cliff hypothesis and the limitations of empirical research and recommendations. Most of the included studies find support for the glass cliff, in which “think crisis, think female” stereotypes complement the traditional “think leadership, think male” approach. As archival and other studies have been conducted predominantly in Anglo-American countries, future research should extend to other methods and settings. In contrast to the recent literature, the present review draws a clear distinction between archival, experimental and qualitative research, so increasing interest and relevance for practitioners, regulators and researchers.
... The gender inequality in many workplaces has resulted in what is called "Glass Ceiling"; a situation where female managers would attain a management level above which they cannot rise, even with clear paths of promotion. They believed that one of the main reasons behind this discrimination is the perception that women are too "emotional" to handle top positions and that top positions require more masculine traits such as being assertive, aggressive, controlling, and competitive (Hennessey et al., 2014). ...
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This study discusses the relationship between a country's happiness, and relevant country characteristics including gender inequality, levels of corruption, and the percentage of women in parliamentary positions. The aim of the study is to understand how these variables change according to female representation in political leadership. Secondary source data was collected and correlation analyses were performed between the variables using the SPSS statistical program. Results show that the lower the Gender Inequality Index, the higher the percentage of Women in Parliament Positions and the higher the Happiness Index. Furthermore, the results indicate that a higher number of women in leadership position is associated with a lower corruption level and a higher degree of Happiness. Results suggest that the context in which women reach political positions is characterized by less corruption and gender inequality alongside greater happiness in the country.
... The glass cliff phenomenon draws from the precarious work literature. Accepting a top management position or a board position in a firm suffering from poor financial performance can be considered precarious work (Hennessey, MacDonald and Carroll, 2014). Gender socialization theory and the social theory of leadership (Eagly and Carli, 2007;Eagly and Johnson, 1990) provide a framework for understanding why women may be over-represented in such positions. ...
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