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The paradox of being on the glass cliff: why do women accept risky leadership positions?

Maral Darouei (Department of Business Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands)
Helen Pluut (Department of Business Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 20 September 2018

Issue publication date: 21 September 2018

Abstract

Purpose

Recent evidence from glass cliff research suggests that women are more willing than men to accept risky leadership positions. The purpose of this paper (based on three studies) is to reveal and resolve the apparent paradox that women are more risk averse than men yet end up in risky leadership positions.

Design/methodology/approach

In Study I, risk attitudes of 125 participants were surveyed to understand gender differences in risk taking. In two experimental vignette studies, 119 university students (Study II) and 109 working adults (Study III) were offered a leadership position in either a risky or successful company and asked to rate their willingness to accept the job.

Findings

Together, the results showed that although women are generally more risk averse than men, women who scored low on career self-efficacy were more likely to perceive a risky job as a promotional opportunity and were therefore more willing to accept such a job. These findings shed light on the role of women’s career decision making in the glass cliff phenomenon.

Originality/value

Glass cliff research has focused almost exclusively on organizational decision makers. The authors aim to better understand the glass cliff phenomenon by incorporating the perspective of job seekers.

Keywords

Citation

Darouei, M. and Pluut, H. (2018), "The paradox of being on the glass cliff: why do women accept risky leadership positions?", Career Development International, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 397-426. https://doi.org/10.1108/CDI-01-2018-0024

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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