The Glass Cliff Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 8 January 2017

The Glass Cliff

Ibarra et al suggest that high-potential women often miss out on sponsorship, an element of mentoring that increases the incidence and speed of candidates’ promotion to upper management positions. Bruckmuller and Branscombe illustrate in their article, The Glass Cliff, a gender partiality that exists when companies look to hire a new executive. Companies with predominantly male executives and in stable financial states are more likely to hire another male executive, while a tanking company with male executives will favor the female candidate.

Both articles contribute evidence to further back the claim that women receive fewer promotional opportunities than men and identify how our common assumptions about gender and leadership impede our movement towards gender equality. However, neither article does well to disarm the biased reader, consequently placing the transmission of an invaluable message at risk. If the authors’ underlying purpose for writing these articles is to promote equal opportunity at all organizational levels as a means to optimize the utility of available human resources, they do not effectively communicate their message.

At first glance, it appears that these articles intend to increase awareness of the additional roadblocks women face on their way to executive suites. Numbers, experiments, and thorough analysis confirm that this is so. I have no doubt that a young ambitious female professional would likely feel outraged at the sight of these figures and feel compelled to join the crusade. However, a man who does not see the benefits of women in management or a woman who does not aspire to be a manager might perceive these articles as personal grievances and greet them with discord. Such an individual might contest that since every author is female, the articles are therefore biased and the integrity of the articles is compromised. In this instance, the message and potential progress towards equal opportunity is lost. To avoid this predicament, I might suggest presenting evidence that would appeal to male executives, as they occupy the majority of the upper echelon positions and thus, possess the most power to resist or catalyze change.

Perhaps a worthy initiative would be to increase these managers awareness of the similarity–attraction principle, which explains how when given the opportunity to select another member to interact within a group, individuals have a proclivity to select persons who are similar to themselves (i.e. male). The argument could go on to explain to managers how such behavior can detrimentally serve a management team by inhibiting heterogeneity, which research suggests facilitates long-term team performance (Horwitz, 2007). Whether this is a sound argument is debatable, but this topic is much less likely to be met with resistance simply due to the nature of the subject matter. Every executive agrees that long-term team performance is a worthy pursuit. In this scenario, both parties understand the value of the message and have potential to mutually benefit from it.


Horwitz, Sujin K., and Irwin B. Horwitz. “The effects of team diversity on team outcomes: A meta-analytic review of team demography.” Journal of management 33.6 (2007): 987-1015.

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