Are there differences in the perceived suitability of men and women for leadership positions? Gender & Finance Literature Review Series #8: Haslam and Ryan (2008)
In this G&F LRS #8, we analyze the following research paper:
Alexander S. Haslam and Michelle K. Ryan (2008) “The road to the glass cliff: Differences in the perceived suitability of men and women for leadership positions in succeeding and failing organizations” The Leadership Quarterly 19(5) 530-546.
The authors are trying to know if there are differences between the perceived suitability of men and women for leadership positions depending on the performance of the involved company and if so, why?
The authors’ perception
From the authors’ point of views, the struggling predicament of women does not stop after breaking the glass ceiling -once they reach leadership positions. This feeling would explain why despite a higher number of female leaders, there are still differences between men and women in the type of leadership positions they occupy. Indeed, women seem to be more likely to be appointed to leadership positions in organizations in crisis.
The methodology used
To find evidence of this phenomenon, the authors conducted three different studies on three different types of sample – business students, college students and senior managers. The members of the samples had to evaluate the suitability of male or female candidates to a leadership position and its leadership ability either in a healthy business or a struggling one. Then, in the last study, the authors identified potential motives justifying why women are more likely to be appointed to more risky leadership positions.
These studies find evidence that women are more likely to be nominated for leadership positions in organizations in crisis. This confirms this existence of a Glass Cliff for women meaning that they do not have access to the same type of leadership positions than men, which can negatively impact their future career opportunities. The authors gave evidence that this phenomenon is not related to a hypothetical preference from women for risky positions but rather to social stereotypes. Glass Cliff could be another explanation for the predominance of women in non-core business positions. The authors also think that some women leave their management positions because of too limited opportunities to get more responsibilities and not always because of family commitment, another sign of the existence of the Glass Cliff.
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