Public Release: 

The Glass Cliff: Female representation in politics and business

Are women set up for failure?

Wiley

Exeter, UK--February 9, 2010--Leadership positions in business have proven to be precarious for women. Female business leaders are more likely to be appointed to powerful leadership positions when an organization is in crisis or high-risk circumstances. Researcher Dr. Michelle Ryan, who is publishing her research in a forthcoming issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly, proposes that this scenario of "the glass cliff" extends to the political arena.

During the UK 2005 general election, the seats Conservative party female candidates were vying for were considered virtually "unwinnable," and the results were more likely to favor the male Labour party candidates.

The reasons behind voter behavior and business appointments are difficult to pinpoint and controversial. Ryan proposes that at the root of the issue is the perception that women are less competent than males, despite evidence that women have broken through "the glass ceiling" and have finally achieved gender equality.

In the EU women make up just over ten percent of the top executive positions in the top fifty publicly quoted companies, and in the U.S. female leaders occupy less than sixteen percent of these positions in the Fortune 500. As women continue to be underrepresented in politics and business, this stereotype is often reinforced and self-perpetuating. Ryan says, "Gender discrimination in politics can be subtle and difficult to identify. Women continue to be under-represented in political office and often face a more difficult political task than men."

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This study is published in the March 2010 issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact scholarlynews@wiley.com.

To view the abstract for this article please visit http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123276529/abstract.

Dr. Michelle Ryan is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Exeter. She can be reached for questions at m.ryan@exeter.ac.uk or via the university press office at pressoffice@exeter.ac.uk or+44 (0)1392 262062.

Psychology of Women Quarterly (PWQ) is a feminist journal that publishes primarily qualitative and quantitative research with substantive and theoretical merit, along with critical reviews, theoretical articles, and invited book reviews related to the psychology of women and gender. Topics include career choice and training; management and performance variables; education; lifespan role development and change; physical and mental health and well-being; physical, sexual, and psychological abuse; violence and harassment; prejudice and discrimination; psychobiological factors; sex-related comparisons; sexuality, sexual orientation, and heterosexism; social and cognitive processes; and therapeutic processes. Topics related to ethnic minority and cross-cultural issues are encouraged. These suggestions are not exhaustive, but are intended to guide the investigator when considering appropriateness of an article for the journal. Literary analyses do not fall within the purview of the journal.

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