Shattered the Glass Ceiling? Avoid Falling off the Glass Cliff.


In 2012, Marissa Mayer was given the chance to take the helm at While she took the position, many in the industry were worried that this would be a classic case of the glass cliff phenomenon.

What is the Glass Cliff?

The glass cliff is a term for situations in which female executives are hired to take over a business in a crisis, only to be set up for failure.

More than just an abstract idea, research has proven that women executives are more likely to be hired in a precarious time for a company, only to be let go when unrealistic expectations are not met. Then these women are almost exclusively replaced by men. In a study of Fortune 500 companies, in 608 transitions of women being let go, only 4 positions were then succeeded by women.

Women have shown gains on every level of business growth, from getting into business school and securing business loans, to reaching the upper echelons of power. The glass cliff is, however, an insidious way that powerful women are being undermined in the workplace.  Educating yourself about it is the best way to avoid tumbling down.

Some ways to skirt the precipitous drop of the glass cliff include considerations like:

Learn to say “NO”

There are many reasons for the pervasiveness of the glass cliff, but it may mostly stem from the idea that men are more likely to turn down a risky executive level position where a woman may feel it is too good of an opportunity to pass up. Understand your worth and walk away if it seems you are being set up for failure.

Take the risk, reap the reward

If you are going to take a risky proposition, be appropriately compensated for taking on that risk.  Include it in your salary negotiations. It’s shown that women are 4 times less likely to negotiate their contracts.

 Outline what success looks like

Avoiding the glass cliff means managing expectations and setting concrete, feasible goals. If you have achieved these goals, it’s more difficult for others to have good cause when looking to oust you.

To learn more about how to navigate the glass cliff, check out the infographic from Fundera below:

What is the Glass Cliff?


Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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