Think crisis-think female: the glass cliff and contextual variation in the think manager-think male stereotype

J Appl Psychol. 2011 May;96(3):470-84. doi: 10.1037/a0022133.


The "think manager-think male" (TMTM) association underlies many gender inequalities in the workplace. However, research into the "glass cliff" has demonstrated that the suitability of male and female managers varies as a function of company performance such that in times of poor performance people may "think female" (Ryan & Haslam, 2005, 2007). Three studies examined gender and managerial stereotypes in the context of companies that are doing well or doing badly. Study 1 reproduced TMTM associations for descriptions of managers of successful companies but demonstrated a reversal for managers of unsuccessful companies. Study 2 examined the prescriptive nature of these stereotypes. No TMTM relationship was found for ideal managers of successful companies, but ideal managers of unsuccessful companies were associated with the female stereotype. Study 3 suggested that women may be favored in times of poor performance, not because they are expected to improve the situation, but because they are seen to be good people managers and can take the blame for organizational failure. Together, the studies illustrate the importance of context as a moderator of the TMTM association. Practical and theoretical implications for gender discrimination in the workplace are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administrative Personnel / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Commerce / organization & administration
  • Data Collection
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Stereotyping*
  • Workforce
  • Workplace / psychology
  • Young Adult