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Governor Kathy Hochul and the all-too-familiar glass cliff

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27.08.2021

New York’s first-ever female governor, Kathy Hochul, was sworn in on Tuesday in the wake of a disgraced outgoing governor. She is tasked with a number of significant public health, education, and economic challenges. It’s a story that parallels what so many professional women face when rising to the top—and it’s playing out in the highest level of state politics.

The term glass cliff—a derivative of the term glass ceiling, the common metaphor for the unspoken limit to how high women and people of color can rise in an organization—was coined to indicate how women are frequently promoted when an organization is in crisis mode. Often a last-ditch effort—”what could be worse?”—they “put the girl in.” The company gets to look progressive and feels free to promote a man afterward if the female executive fails.

Sadly, this is often the way women make it to the top. Many men would turn down a similar potentially lethal career move, not wanting a blemish of failure on a carefully cultivated track record (or image) of success. But sometimes, it’s the only chance women get.

Women need to take the limited shots they are given and create agreements that reward them for these higher risk assignments. Moreover, they need to lean into what makes so many women strong and successful leaders: competence, aligning people with purpose, empathy, coaching and........

© Fast Company


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