Signaling change during a crisis: Refining conditions for the glass cliff

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Research into the glass cliff indicates that adverse company circumstances, compared to favorable ones, increase the likelihood of women to be appointed in leadership positions. Study 1 refined the conditions under which a glass cliff occurs by demonstrating a preference for a female leader when a company's performance was attributed to past leadership (an internal, controllable cause) but not when it was attributed to global economic circumstances (an external, uncontrollable cause). Study 2 replicated the glass cliff for a controllable context and revealed that the female candidate's potential to signal change, rather than her quality and suitability as a leader, accounted for the preference of the female candidate. We conclude that women, as non-traditional leaders, are strategic choices of companies with the aim to signal change to the outside world (e.g., investors) when past leadership is held responsible for a crisis. However, they are not expected to actually impact on the company's performance through their leadership quality.




Kulich, C., Lorenzi-Cioldi, F., Iacoviello, V., Faniko, K., & Ryan, M. K. (2015). Signaling change during a crisis: Refining conditions for the glass cliff. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 61, 96–103.

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