Women who conquered the glass cliff


Recently, we discussed a barrier women had to be wary of in business, the glass cliff. It’s the theory that even once a woman has smashed through the glass ceiling in business; she is still in danger of failure.

In fact, the theory goes further in saying women in these positions are often in them because their company is in crisis – and they are handed a poisoned chalice or made the potential scapegoat for failure.

Many businesswomen are believed to currently be in this predicament, and examples show even more were in the past, with many leaving CEO positions they were given at their respective companies when the business started to fail.

However, there are also some who conquered the glass cliff, and proved women can actually be the saviors of a company. These women refused to be used as the scapegoats their employers expected them to be.

Indra Nooyi, Irene Rosenfeld and Andrea Jung are only a few of the many women who were appointed as the CEO of a company, and have maintained their role for more than five years at least, despite considerable media suggesting they would fail.

These women are proof that if given a real chance, women can improve a company.

Indra Nooyi

Before Indra Nooyi was appointed as the CEO of PepsiCo, she was the company’s CFO. In this role she made a number of improvements.

She led many of the company’s restructuring efforts, such as the separation of restaurants, known as YUM! Brands.  Nooyi is often including in lists of the most influential women in business.

Irene Rosenfeld

Irene Rosenfeld was appointed as the CEO of Mondelez (formally Kraft) in order to ‘effect company turnaround.’  She was not already working at the company but was rather brought in for the position when the company was dealing with a range of issues.

It could be argued her appointment is an example of the ‘glass cliff’ as she was expected to fail. Rosenfeld stated that when she started working at Mondelez, there were several issues she needed to solve

This included the structure of the organization, which she declared caused the company to be slower than it should have as well as unresponsive to local market conditions.

However, she was able to improve these situations tremendously by completely rewiring the company, which started when she changed the top two levels of management.

Rosenfeld’s efforts have proved to be incredibly successful, with an increase in the company’s overall performance. As a result, she has yet to fall off the glass cliff, and has kept her position at Mondelez for eight years after being appointed in 2006.

Andrea Jung

Andrea Jung is another prime example of women who have conquered the glass cliff. She was appointed as the CEO of Avon in 1999 at the age of 40, taking over the role when the company was undeniably in crisis.

There were rumors of takeovers, along with low employee morale and a plummeting stock price. Clearly, she was in a position where it would have been incredibly easy for her to fail, but instead she was able to turn the company around. As a result, she has been the CEO for more than a decade.

Be a saviour

Therefore, when a woman has been appointed as the CEO of a company in crisis, it does not mean she is doomed to fail. Indra Nooyi, Irene Rosenfeld and Andrea Jung are living proof the glass cliff can in fact be conquered.

If you believe you are placed in a similar position, you need to remember it is possible to turn the company around. You don’t have to be the company’s scapegoat. You can be its savior.

About Natalie Cupac

Natalie Cupac Journalist & Features Writer for The Business Woman, Natalie Cupac is studying a double degree of Journalism and International Studies and has previously worked for Pacific Magazines

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