Are women appointed to top jobs set up to be scapegoats for problems they didn’t create? The Harvard Business Review recently looked at this phenomenon they called the “status-quo bias” where a male-run company that is doing well was looking for a new CEO, 62% would prefer a man. However, if the company was facing difficulties, 69% wanted a woman. Bruckmuller and Branscombe, the lead researchers say: “As long as a company headed by a man performs well, there is not a perceived need to change its leadership. Only if male leaders have manoeuvred an organisation into trouble is a switch to a female leader preferred”.
So it’s business as usual until there’s a problem. How do you climb the ladder while avoiding this glass cliff? Start off by accepting a degree of risk-taking is inherent in any job. However, as Michelle Ryan of the University of Exeter points out: “They are often appointments where everyone else is hanging back and the woman is approached by someone saying ‘you say you want more responsibility and to progress, here’s your chance.’ It is key to understand you will only be able to turn things around by getting the public support of senior staff and board members. Make this your first job before taking on any senior position. Find more stories on career planning here.