Signaling change during a crisis: Refining conditions for the glass cliff

Clara Kulich*, Fabio Lorenzi-Cioldi, Vincenzo Iacoviello, Klea Faniko, Michelle K. Ryan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)
187 Downloads (Pure)


Research into the glass cliff indicates that adverse company circumstances, compared to favorable ones, increase the likelihood of women to be appointed in leadership positions. Study 1 refined the conditions under which a glass cliff occurs by demonstrating a preference for a female leader when a company's performance was attributed to past leadership (an internal, controllable cause) but not when it was attributed to global economic circumstances (an external, uncontrollable cause). Study 2 replicated the glass cliff for a controllable context and revealed that the female candidate's potential to signal change, rather than her quality and suitability as a leader, accounted for the preference of the female candidate. We conclude that women, as non-traditional leaders, are strategic choices of companies with the aim to signal change to the outside world (e.g., investors) when past leadership is held responsible for a crisis. However, they are not expected to actually impact on the company's performance through their leadership quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-103
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Nov-2015


  • Actual change
  • Controllability
  • Financial crisis
  • Glass cliff
  • Leadership
  • Symbolic change


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