From glass ceiling to the glass cliff: How to lead when you’re a woman hired to fail
Time and again, we’ve seen the pressure aimed at women in leadership when they’re positioned to take on high-risk business challenges or corporate crisis turnarounds. Take Mary Barra of General Motors, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo and Carly Fiorina of HP, for example. They were elevated to the top of the corporate ladder but placed in scenarios where their chance of failure was more likely – a “glass cliff” if you will.
Any leader during times of duress – or perhaps an impeding recession – can fail before they’ve even started if there is a lack of structural and cultural support for their sustained success. But researchers found that promoting women to higher positions often comes with negative implications, the equivalent of standing on the edge of a cliff. If they falter, they fall off.
That’s why I caught up with two high-powered women in charge of growth at the new GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) spin-off enterprise Haleon, which is now the largest consumer healthcare business in the world.
Lisa Paley, president, North America, at Haleon and Katie Williams, U.S. chief marketing officer, both face the task of leading brands that include Advil, Centrum, Sensodyne, Robitussin and Tums during a time of economic upheaval and corporate scrutiny.
For Paley and Williams, they have an intentional strategy to weather the storm. It involves building an inclusive business model – one where women can advance and thrive as key drivers of business performance.