May 12, 2023 - Economy

Newly appointed Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino risks the glass cliff

Illustration of a glass cursor with cracks

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Elon Musk vaulted Linda Yaccarino into one of the most visible leadership positions in the world Friday when he named her Twitter's new CEO.

Why it matters: While the appointment of the former NBCUniversal ad chief reflects continued progress in gender representation at the corporate top, experts also see the move as thrusting another woman onto a "glass cliff."

Context: Similar to the "glass ceiling," a metaphor for the invisible social barrier that limits women's upward mobility, the glass cliff is a metaphor for women and other underrepresented groups being asked to transform a faltering firm — facing a high likelihood of failure.

  • An oft-cited study in the Harvard Business Review reveals that women are preferred to take over when a male-led company is in crisis.

State of play: Yaccarino is inheriting a company that's shed roughly 80% of its workers since Musk took over last October.

The other side: It takes a great deal of cynicism to believe that Musk set it up to prove that women can’t lead, Jennifer Chatman, professor of management at the Haas School of Business, tells Axios.

  • After all, Musk has taken the risk himself, Chatman adds.

What to watch: How dominant Musk will remain, while he works on product design and new technology. Yaccarino will be responsible for business operations primarily.

  • “She should get out quick” if Musk remains dominant, says Chatman.

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