Gendered Technology-Based Organizations: A View of the Glass Cliff through the Window of the Glass Ceiling

Gendered Technology-Based Organizations: A View of the Glass Cliff through the Window of the Glass Ceiling

Ben Tran (Alliant International University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1836-7.ch015
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Abstract

The “glass cliff” is a term coined by Professor Michelle Ryan and Professor Alex Haslam in 2004. Their research demonstrates that once women (or other minority groups) break through the glass ceiling and take on positions of leadership, they often have different experiences from their male counterparts. Specifically, women are more likely to occupy positions that can be described as precarious and thus have a higher risk of failure, either because they are in organizational units that are in crisis, or because they are not given the resources and support needed to thrive. The success of the glass cliff, as a phenomenon, rests on three factors. First, it relies heavily on the quality and quantity of data available, as well as the reliability of the data. Second, it relies heavily on the acceptance, utilization, and application of its existence, for a lack of acknowledgment, acceptance, utilization, and application of any phenomenon, concept, and theory will result in extinction. Third, this phenomenon, in reality, is quite taboo in a male dominated society, regardless of culture. Nevertheless, the glass cliff, as a phenomenon, is quite neoteric, and is typically not spoken of, nor referred to when men communicate, in the same way that men do not usually refer to the glass ceiling, or the glass escalator. The purpose of this chapter is to delve into and explore the concept of the glass cliff faced by women in high-tech corporations, and how the glass cliff affects their career advancement and identity growth through empirical data. The chapter then provides three recommendations on resolving the glass cliff phenomenon, and concludes with whether the glass cliff as a phenomenon is convertible to become a theory.
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The Glass Cliff

The glass cliff is a term coined by Professor Michelle Ryan and Professor Alex Haslam of Exeter University, United Kingdom, in 2004. Their research demonstrates that once women (or other minority groups) break through the glass ceiling and take on positions of leadership, they often have different experiences from their male counterparts. Specifically, women are more likely to occupy positions that can be described as precarious and thus have a higher risk of failure, either because they are in organizational units that are in crisis, or because they are not given the resources and support needed for success. Extending the metaphor of the glass ceiling, the researchers evoked the metaphor of the glass cliff to capture the subtlety of the phenomenon and the feeling of teetering on the edge1. In other words, the glass cliff is founded on the phenomenon of women being preferentially placed in leadership roles that are associated with an increased risk of negative consequences (Ryan & Haslam, 2005).

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