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Symbolic management and the glass cliff: Evidence from the boardroom careers of female and male directors

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136–155
JournalBritish Journal of Management
Issue number1
Early online date13 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2018


This paper uses archival board data to demonstrate that women who take positions as directors of UK companies have shorter tenures than their male counterparts. The authors show that female directors face a much higher risk of dismissal as they approach nine years of service on the board, when their long service deprives them of the all-important classification as 'independent'. At this point, their position on the board becomes precarious. Male directors do not suffer the same increase in boardroom exit. This gender-specific difference is clearly shown to be linked to the independence status. It is argued that these observations are consistent with the notion that female directors are being used in the symbolic management of corporate governance and that, at nine years, when the cloak of independence disappears, women directors are then exposed to the biases that arise from role congruity issues.

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