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Glass Cliffs and Organizational Saviors: Barriers to Minority Leadership in Work Organizations?

Alison Cook and Christy Glass
Social Problems
Vol. 60, No. 2 (May 2013), pp. 168-187
DOI: 10.1525/sp.2013.60.2.168
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Page Count: 20
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Glass Cliffs and Organizational Saviors
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Racial/ethnic minorities remain underrepresented in positions of authority. While ample scholarship has identified barriers to mobility, much less scholarship has explored the conditions under which minorities are promoted to leadership positions. Relying on a unique data set that includes all transitions among NCAA men's basketball head coaches over a 30-year period, we analyze the promotion probability and post-promotion trajectory of minority coaches. First, we find that minority coaches are more likely to be appointed in historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) due to bottom-up ascription. Second, minorities are more likely than whites to be promoted to losing teams, a phenomenon termed the glass cliff. And third, when minority coaches are unable to generate winning records they are replaced by white coaches, a phenomenon we term the savior effect. By testing mechanisms related to the mobility chances of minorities, this analysis advances our understanding of the processes that shape racial/ethnic hierarchies in organizations.

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