Mindful Money must-read of the day: Could Brooks be victim of ‘glass cliff’ syndrome?

19th July 2011

As Rebekah Brooks steels herself to appear before a Commons committee in the Houses of Parliament, one commentator is claiming she will end up being judged more harshly because she is female.

Writing for the Financial Mail Women's Forum website Dr Gloria Moss said research had proven that there was a tendency for women in senior management to occupy so-called "poisoned chalice" roles.

Dr Moss, a reader in human resources at Bucks New University writes: "In the UK, only 12 per cent of directors of FTSE 100 companies in the UK are women and so Rebecca Brooks' position as CEO of News International was highly unusual."

Dr Moss said there were two other issues surrounding Brook's resignation;  the issue of landing top jobs and secondly, handing on to them.

"In terms of landing top jobs, it has been found that women have a better chance of breaking through the glass ceiling when an organisation is in crisis – thus finding themselves on what has been termed the ‘glass cliff.'

The ‘glass cliff' theory was formulated by Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam of Exeter University. "Their research showed that women tend only to be appointed to senior leadership positions when the organisation to be led faces crisis and everything is likely to go wrong" writes Dr Moss.

She points out how Brooks was appointed CEO of NI in September 2009 amid allegations of phone-tapping involving the News of the World. When businesses are doing well it tends to be male characteristics that are favoured.

In terms of keeping the top job, research by Dr Brescoll from Yale found that high-flying career women who succeed in roles traditionally performed by men are particularly vulnerable to losing their job, and seen as ‘unlikeable' and ‘less competent'. "It found that if they made a single mistake, a woman was more likely to be criticised than a man doing the same job and making the same mistake."

Dr Moss notes that James Murdoch, Deputy Chief Operating Officer of News Corporation and Chairman of News International, have not being targeted for resignation in the way that Rebecca Brooks is despite two important points:


The fairer sex: Why when it comes to business men and women are equal

Women on top: Does having more women in the boardroom make a difference

Why you need to invest like a girl

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