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Webinar #11: The Glass Cliff Phenomenon

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

Webinar 11: The Glass Cliff Phenomenon Women in Research 'Small Wins' Webinar

What a fascinating and enlightening discussion on the unique challenges of women appointed to precarious leadership positions. Many thanks to ARC Laureate Fellow Alex Haslam for helping us understand what may cause the glass cliff phenomenon. Professor Haslam argues that we need to fundamentally re-think and re-conceptualise how we train and develop leaders.

Some key points of the webinar are summarised below:

Alex Haslam's Key Points:

  • Despite initial skepticism, there's a large body of evidence that shows that men and women often have very different leadership experiences.

  • Several studies show women more often end up in riskier, more precarious leadership positions compared to men, with more chance that things could go wrong due to the challenging situation (the "glass cliff" phenomenon).

  • Research has identified several factors that explain why women are more likely to end up in more precarious leadership positions.

What can we do about it?

  • Recognise the phenomenon, focus on when and how it occurs and how to deal with the problems it creates

  • We need a new way to think about about leadership and new ideas about to develop leaders (focus on the "we" vs. "I", effective engagement with diverse teams; and genuine involvement of leaders in teams)

Based on her own glass cliff experience, Sharon shared her recommendations for dealing with the situation:

  • Understand the class cliff phenomenon and go into any precarious leadership situations with awareness

  • Agree with senior leaders clear and realistic goals for the role

  • Seek support (eg. explore coaching options)

  • Seek internal sponsors (eg. senior women in the university)

  • Be assertive

  • Actively manage up (negotiate, push and demand)

  • Don't put too much pressure on yourself


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