Being CEO Isn't Enough to Protect Women at Work

A company's chief executive has a lot on their shoulders, if everything is working the way it should. Hard work, good business sense, and earnest effort should be rewarded equally across genders. But ladies, raise your hands if you've heard this before — it's not remotely that easy or that clear-cut.

Researchers at the University of Alabama have just published a dispiriting study looking at firing rates among CEOs. Even though worldwide, women make up just 10 percent of CEOs, female CEOs are 45 percent more likely to be dismissed from their position. Performance improvement doesn't shield female CEOs like their male colleagues either.

Women face an uphill climb in corporate environments from the get-go, and worse yet, nobody is willing to tell the truth about it. The so-called glass ceiling doesn't just hold back women in the workplace; it's destructive for everybody. Furthermore, the few women who do make it to the top may have to contend with other cultural factors. One of the most salient is the glass cliff phenomenon. In this scenario, women are more likely to reach the upper reaches of a company only when it's at its most precarious. Women therefore are more likely to take the fall when factors beyond their control and from before their time tip a business over the edge.

"Dismissing the CEO is usually viewed as evidence of good corporate governance, as it suggests that the board is taking its monitoring role seriously," write the UA researchers in a press release. "However, our research reveals there are invisible, but serious, gender biases in how the board evaluates CEOs and its decision to retain or fire particular CEOs."