With the announcement that the long-struggling internet company Yahoo has hired a female CEO, Marissa Mayer — who, it so happens, is also pregnant — people are talking about a phenomenon sometimes called “the glass cliff”: When women get appointed to leadership positions in the corporate world, a disproportionate amount of time they’re facing a dire situation.
“The glass cliff” theory was formulated by two British academics, Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam. In 2008, the writer Clive Thompson summed up their work this way:
In one study, they took 83 businesspeople — roughly half of them women — and described to them two companies, one that was steadily improving in profitability and another that was steadily declining. The subjects were told to pick a new financial director for the firm and were presented with three candidates: a man and a woman who were identical in experience and a lesser-qualified male. The subjects were slightly more likely to pick a man to lead the successful firm but were far more likely to pick the woman to lead the failing one. Two other experiments with similar designs yielded the same result: When presented with men and women to lead a company that’s going down the tubes, people pick the woman.
How will Donald Trump’s first 100 days impact YOU? Subscribe, choose the community that you most identify with or want to learn more about and we’ll send you the news that matters most once a week throughout Trump’s first 100 days in office. Learn more