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Video of the month: Be aware of the ‘glass cliff’

Women’s champion Gwen Rhys advises that when you’re offered a leadership position, just check that you’re not being set up to fail.

Gwen Rhys, CEO of Women in the City has some wise words for aspiring leaders.

“One of the situations that female leaders often find themselves in is being, sadly, the scapegoat. This is a situation that researchers at Exeter University have looked at in some considerable depth, and they call it the ‘glass cliff’. And I think if there are women listening to me now, they might recognize themselves in that, or they certainly might recognize other women that they know.

So the scenario is something like this: the woman is offered a leadership role and she thinks, ‘Yes! Yes! At long last, this is my moment.’ And she’s so caught up and captured in the excitement of that, she forgets to think,’Hang on, hang on, they’re asking me… I bet you they’ve asked some men.’ Yes, they have.

They’ve probably asked at least half a dozen men, all of whom have said no because they’ve realised that this is actually a hiding to nowhere. And so women take on these roles with a great deal of excitement but they don’t look closely enough at the situation.

They often don’t ask for enough resources – whether that’s staff to help them internally, a salary to do the job so that they can pay for the things to support them at home – and then they fail.

But actually they’ve been set up to fail and that’s what they often don’t know, and that is incredibly damaging of women’s leadership careers. And we can lose some very good female leaders because of that.

The learning point, I think, is to not get too excited, to look really carefully, to talk around, to ask other people’s advice, to use your network, find out as much as you can about that situation before you put yourself in it.”

This is an edited version of this Clear Lesson – watch the video for the full story.

About Gwen Rhys

Gwen’s business experience intertwines periods of corporate life and self-employment. She set up Networking Culture in 1996 and works with a wide range of organisations helping them and their employees to build, nurture and leverage their social capital. Networking Culture Ltd is also responsible for launching, managing and developing Women in the City and an out-of-town pop-up venue known as space.

Gwen has worked extensively in the corporate sector and her clients include organisations such as Intel, ICI, Shell, M&S; high street and investment banks, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Lloyds TSB, Barclays Capital; nation-wide charities such as British Heart Foundation; universities including the London Business School, Cranfield and Oxford Brookes; professional practices including BDO, Withers; Hamilton LLP, Alliance Bernstein; trade associations and small business support organisations.

In 2009 Gwen was nominated Management Champion by the City Branch of the Chartered Management Institute. In 2011 Women in the City won an international Stevie Women in Business Award in the Women Helping Women Category and a Global Excellence Award for its Annual Celebration Lunch. In 2012 she appeared in Brummell magazine’s 30 Most Influential Women in the City List.

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