Analysis of leaders throughout COVID-19 shows women better in a crisis 

When discussing the careers of women leaders, there’s a phenomenon referred to as the “glass cliff,” Harvard Business Review reports. It’s a relative to the term “glass ceiling,” which describes the invisible barrier to advancement that women historically have faced when they are up for promotion to the highest levels of an organization. 

The “glass cliff” describes the idea that when a company is in trouble, a female leader is put in charge to save it.  When women are finally given a chance to prove themselves in a senior position, they are handed something that is already broken and where the chances of failure are high.

During the COVID-19 crisis, there have been anecdotes about women leaders doing a better job, but now new research backs that up. One study found that outcomes related to COVID-19, including the number of cases and deaths, were systematically better in countries led by women. Another looked at governors in the U.S. and similarly found that states with female leaders had lower fatality rates. 

Harvard Business Review decided to look at its global database of 360-degree assessments to see if there were any patterns in how male and female leaders inside organizations are reacting and responding to the crisis. The data for the analysis was pulled from assessments of over 60,000 leaders (22,603 women and 40,187 men).  

Between March and June of this year, 454 men and 366 women were assessed on their leadership effectiveness using the Extraordinary Leader 360-degree assessment. Consistent with a pre-pandemic analysis, it was found that women were rated significantly more positively than men. The gap between men and women in the pandemic is even larger than previously measured, possibly indicating that women tend to perform better in a crisis. Read the full story.