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

Maral Darouei*, Helen Pluut

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-426
Number of pages30
JournalCareer Development International
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Career decision making
  • Career self-efficacy
  • Gender
  • Glass cliff
  • Promotional opportunity
  • Risk taking


Dive into the research topics of 'The paradox of being on the glass cliff: why do women accept risky leadership positions?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this