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Navigating the glass cliff : exploring the careers of women and minority leaders

How do women and people of color obtain and sustain top leadership positions? Theories of the glass cliff have focused on the penalties imposed upon women and minority leaders due to bias and discrimination at the time of appointment. Much less attention has focused on the strategic agency these leaders exercise in response to bias across the career. This study advances theory and research on the glass cliff by analyzing the strategies women and people of color use to negotiate their entrance to and inclusion in elite leadership roles. Relying on in-depth interviews with top leaders across a range of industries, our study reveals that glass cliff appointments result, in part, from the culmination of long-term career strategies centered on risk. We also uncover a range of embodied, cultural and interpersonal strategies these leaders employ to sustain their legitimacy as leaders. We conclude by considering ways organizations can lessen the “risk tax” and “performative contortions” required of non-traditional leaders.


Dr. Christy Glass is a Professor of Sociology at Utah State University. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University in 2005. Her research and teaching focus on gender, race/ethnicity, work and leadership. Her current research focuses on factors that shape promotion opportunities for women and racial/ethnic minorities, including the glass cliff. She has published widely in top journals in sociology and management, including Social Forces, Work & Occupations, Gender & Society, Social Problems, Strategic Management Journal and Leadership Quarterly. Her research aims to inform workplace policies and practices that can reduce inequality and promote fairness. Her research has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, CNN and the Harvard Business Review.

20 mai 2019
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