Document Type


First Advisor

David Van Heemst

Publication Date


Scholarship Domain(s)

Scholarship of Discovery; Scholarship of Interdisciplinary Integration


The study of gender equality in leadership roles has for the majority of its history focused on the phenomenon of the glass ceiling. A new theory has recently immerged calling attention to the idea that women who attain leadership roles are set up in crisis or failure situations more often than their male counterparts. This is called the ‘glass cliff theory’ and over the past decade has been studied in the fields of business and politics. This research will discuss the leadership stereotypes that may affect women in these roles, and the evidence of the existence of the glass cliff. Regression analyses were conducted on the election results of 2006, 2008, and 2010 for any evidence that the seats pursued by female Republicans in the general elections were seen as more difficult to win than those their pursued by their Democratic female counterparts. When controlling for the predicted winnability of a seat Republican women ran for more ‘hopeless’ seats than Democratic women, causing a significant impact on their electoral success compared to other groups. The difference between parties suggests that a glass cliff exists for Republican women but not for Democratic women. The remaining significant difference between Republican men and Republican women after controlling for winnability suggests that other factors play a larger impact on electoral success as an effect of gender. Winnability, however, it is a partial mediator of total gender effects. Legal or voluntary political gender quotas are discussed as a possible aid to increasing gender equality within the legislature. Future research is suggested.


Honors Cohort 8. Graduation date 2017.

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.