The Challenges facing Twitter
Twitter has struggled in recent years, particularly since Elon Musk took ownership of the platform. A primary source of world news for many people, Twitter has faced criticism over issues like misinformation, harassment, and hate speech. In addition, the company's financial performance has been underwhelming, with declining user growth and profitability. These challenges may make newly appointed CEO Linda Yaccarino's job more difficult as she takes the helm of Twitter.
Elon Musk's free-speech ideology on Twitter has been marred by inconsistent enforcement. In the name of free speech, he restored thousands of previously suspended accounts, including neo-Nazi and QAnon accounts. However, it wasn’t long before he suspended comedians and journalists who critiqued him, and barred users from talking about Twitter's competitors. His leadership has also been criticized by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who initially endorsed Musk as his successor. Researchers told the New York Times Musk's inconsistent enforcement has lead to a rise in hate speech on the platform, including over 200% increase in anti-Black slurs.
The business side of Twitter was rocked when 500 big-name advertisers paused spending on the platform due to worries about Musk's unpredictable conduct and the unprecedented growth in hate speech on the site. According to Reuters, between the time Musk took over until the end of 2022, Twitter's top 30 advertisers cut their expenditures by an average of 42%. Despite Musk's claims that Twitter's user base is larger than ever, a report published by MIT Technology Review showed that Twitter lost more than 1 million accounts ever since he took over.
Linda Yaccarino and the "glass cliff" she may be headed toward
Immediately after Musk announced Yaccarino’s appointment, Twitter was on fire from both the left and right as users began debating why they already hated her for the position based on her political ties. Despite her impressive resume, there is growing concern that she may not be the right person to address the platform's issues with hate speech and misinformation. Yaccarino may not be the change users were hoping for when they voted Musk to step down in December.
Linda Yaccarino’s appointment has raised questions for some about the "glass cliff" phenomenon. Is Linda being set up for failure? Research has shown companies that appoint women as CEOs during times of crisis are often struggling financially or facing significant challenges.
Ryan and Haslam coined the term “the glass cliff” in 2007 when they found that companies were significantly more likely to appoint women to leadership roles when the company was in a state of crisis. The study analyzed the performance of FTSE 100 companies and found that female appointments were more likely to occur in companies with declining profits, low stock prices, and other indicators of struggle. Essentially, women in these circumstances are set up to fail and are blamed even though the company was already headed off the glass cliff.
Overcoming the glass cliff and promoting women's leadership
In a time when only one in four C-suite leaders is a woman, it seems obvious that appointing women to positions that are headed toward the glass cliff is the opposite of gender equity at the top. Yet the research proves this is happening time and time again. Just when women think they’ve shattered the glass ceiling after a brutal and elite climb, they‘re threatened with a cliff they didn’t see coming.
The glass cliff is a pervasive issue that plagues the corporate world, but we must not accept it as an inevitable occurrence. Promoting women leaders means putting them in places where they are set up for success, not disproportionally putting them in roles headed toward failure. It's crucial to actively work to dismantle the systemic barriers, like this and many others, that hinder the success of women leaders.