Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

“Why the glass cliff is a good thing” Lucy Mangan on the rise of women at times of uncertainty and crisis

rexfeatures_5770827a.jpg

It’s a funny old thing, life, isn’t it? And by “funny” I mean “tragic, interspersed with occasional infinitesimally lighter moments that enable us all to go on”. I’m having one of those lighter moments now, because I’ve realised that we’re all perched on top of a glass cliff.

Life is quite a knotty old thing too, so let me unpick.

The phrase “glass cliff” was coined by psychologists back in the dim and distant days of 2004 and is used to describe the phenomenon – observable now outside every bedroom window in England and Scotland and soon, hopefully, in the US – whereby women are propelled to unusually high office in unusually high numbers at times of uncertainty and crisis.

And here we are – with Theresa May as Prime Minister, in charge of tumultuous post-Brexit life. She can tap First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon (who rose swiftly through the ranks in the wake of her country’s independence referendum in 2014) for advice if she fancies. Across the pond there’s Hillary Clinton – another possible beneficiary of crazy times (and even crazier, orange-skinned alternative options). Christine Lagarde, appointed to head the IMF at a time of economic turbelence, can keep a coolly appraising eye on them all.

On the downside, the theory is that women are appointed to these cliff edge positions because they are seen as expendable. The company (“glass cliff” was originally intended as a business term) or institution or political party gets into trouble and appoints a woman because if everything goes tits-up it can all be blamed on her tits. The boys get a pat on the back for trying to be progressive and can revert with a clean slate to business as usual.

On the upside, however, is the fact that things don’t always turn out the way that the people who planned them expect. And so I don’t particularly care how all these women came, or are (hopefully) about to come to power. I only care that they are there. Finally, we get a chance to do things differently. I feel like Chandler Bing when presented with the choice between lying to get a woman into bed and not: “Pure evil,” he says, pretending to weigh his options in his hands, “Horny and alone…” He drops the latter hand. “I’ve done this.”

I too feel our choices are not great. Theresa May is not my idea of good times. But let’s weigh in our hands remaking a world with as many women as possible in charge, versus a ceaseless slew of men in politics… well, we’ve done this. Very much have we done this. And it has, to my untutored but – over the last few weeks especially – experienced eye, it has not gone well. I’m willing to try something different, even though it is still very far from my ideal.

Put at its very, very lowest – it’s going to be interesting to see if gender makes a difference. It didn’t to Thatcher – unless you accept the theory that as a woman alone she felt she had to out-butch the men. But what might happen with a critical mass in communication at the top?

After any cataclysm, there is a chance to rebuild things and I am currently trying to rebuild my hope and optimism. So here’s my hope – that a world with more women in charge of more things will do things differently. Not very, probably. But maybe differently enough. Just enough to suggest that… yes… yes, we could try this.


Photography: Ellis Parrinder, Rex Features

Related

iStock_33585602_LARGE.jpg

“Why letting MPs breastfeed in the Commons is the only way forward”

28074020_rt.jpg

Everything you need to know about Theresa May

rexfeatures_5753206p.jpg

Two female MPs denounce the vilification of women in politics

theresa may prime minister.jpg

Why has it taken this long for another woman to rise to the top?

Thatcher.JPG

“Britain's next PM will be a woman, but this is no victory for women”

bojo cameron.jpg

“Let female politicians put an end to this Brexit chaos”

GettyImages-528413890.jpg

Courage, not fear: why we’ve fallen in love with Ruth Davidson

310_tablet_womens_equality_LEAD_v1.jpg

Just who are the Women’s Equality Party and what do they stand for?

beyonce power pose.jpg

Want to do well at work? You’d better learn to stand like a man

More

Lucy Mangan: “Apathy is domestic violence's biggest ally”

We shouldn't as why women stay - we should ask how it came to be that it was impossible for them to leave

by Lucy Mangan
01 Aug 2017

Lucy Mangan: we should “think twice” before considering porn harmless

“Porn has become normalised, placed almost beyond criticism by its sheer prevalence”

by Lucy Mangan
25 Jul 2017

Lucy Mangan is defending our right to platonic friendships

Our columnist on the infuriating mistrust a one-on-one dinner with a friend provokes

by Lucy Mangan
11 Jul 2017

Lucy Mangan: being ambitious isn’t for everyone

"I cannot live at full stretch"

by Lucy Mangan
08 Jun 2017

Lucy Mangan is exhausted by the “age of extremes”

“Can’t we all just agree to meet half-way?”

by Lucy Mangan
17 May 2017

Lucy Mangan: “Why I regret losing my religion”

"The older I get and the more chaotic the world gets, the more I wish I could trust in a higher power."

by Lucy Mangan
03 May 2017

Lucy Mangan exposes the dangers of parental point scoring

“Enough of this parent worship”

by Lucy Mangan
01 May 2017

“Family planning: the equality question”

Lucy Mangan on the burden of contraception

by Lucy Mangan
01 Apr 2017

Lucy Mangan on why feeling beautiful starts with your thoughts

“Erase the ugly voices in your head”

by Lucy Mangan
01 Apr 2017

“A step-by-step guide to sexism”: Lucy Mangan responds to ‘Legs-it’

You are a lady and you have legs. Use them to kick ass.

by Lucy Mangan
01 Apr 2017