This week, New South Wales got a new premier. Taking over the leadership of the Liberal Party, and taking the reins from Mike Baird, is Gladys Berejiklian who will become just the second woman to run Australia’s biggest state.
Such a statement has been made by reporter Alana Schetzer in her article published in ABC News Australian news agency.
“For progressives across the country striving for gender equality, this is a momentous occasion. This should be reason for celebration, but there is a darker undertone of why the duty to steer NSW through its heavy infrastructure calendar and ongoing controversies about its lock-out laws fell onto the shoulders of a woman, and not a man,” the article reads.
The author notes that the Research, and a long list of historical examples, have shown that when governments and businesses find themselves in trouble, they seek out women and other minorities to take over.
A 15-year research project that analysed the CEO changes of Fortune 500 companies in the US revealed that women and people of colour were more likely to be asked to lead when their companies were in crisis or their performance was weak.
She observes that this is not a case of smashing the glass ceiling, but tackling the glass cliff, which is what happens when a woman rises to the leadership under such circumstances. It creates an equal playing field for a short time, but only because it suits those who already control power.
“And taking over during such a precarious time means that women are brought in to clean up the mess, and it often sets them up to fail,” she added.
The author reminds of other similar cases when women took power in the similar circumstances_ Julia Gillard, Theresa May, Marissa Mayer, Joan Kirner and the others.
“The fact that it remains a near-novelty when a woman climbs to the top of her field is a reminder that women are still rarely welcomed to take power when there are other options that fit the historic mould of what a person in charge should look like: an affluent white man of Christian background,” she noted.
The author observes that despite those who persist with the disproven myth that sexism has been solved and that the world is equal for men, women, and other genders, being a woman in power remains a minefield of blatant sexism. At her first press conference as premier, Berejiklian was asked whether she thought she would be disadvantaged because she’s unmarried and childless. Men are simply not asked this question, nor does it even register with journalists and the public to think of it.
“The glass ceiling remains in part because of the glass cliff; if women are mostly considered only worth taking a risk on during times of crisis, then society will continue to view women’s leadership potential only when it needs a janitor,” she concluded.
The source reminds that Alana Schetzer is a Melbourne-based journalist and editor. She worked at The Age as a news journalist for five years and now freelances and teaches writing and journalism at University of Melbourne.