There has been much speculation around Linda Yaccarino’s appointment as CEO of Twitter. Almost everyone agrees it is an impossible job. Elon Musk himself said this CEO “must like pain a lot” wondering who would be “foolish enough” to take on this job. This hire brings up renewed questions about the “glass cliff” – a theory that women are more likely to be hired into badly performing companies than well-performing companies. Time after time, women feel more inclined to take these roles because more attractive offers are not coming their way.
Margaret Thatcher once said, “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” And there is a lot to be done and fixed at Twitter. Elon Musk lost 40% of company revenue in the first two months following the acquisition of Twitter and has been forced to cut 80% of his workforce. This has been a very public fall – but not of Ms. Yaccarino’s making. She was not the problem, but can she be the solution? This was a lively topic of conversation recently with two of my formidable colleagues, Joanna Reesby and Marina Paganucci.
“As with all hires, clear agreement on ‘what is the definition of success’ for the role is a key criteria to begin to establish that success objectively,” says Joanna Reesby, Managing Partner, Media & Entertainment, SRI Executive Search. “Complicated in this case by the very public views of the users of Twitter being as prominent as the owner’s views. Setting out her own vision, being seen to achieve this – is proof Ms Yaccarino knows how to lead successfully and if Elon Musk differs? I think wise minds will not see her to blame,” Reesby says.
“The recent ‘glass cliff’ headlines unfortunately downplay the growing success seen by companies who place women in CEO roles,” says Marina Paganucci, Partner – Entertainment and Games, SRI Executive Search. “For the first time in the history of the Fortune 500, more than 10% of the list’s companies are run by women. While some of these assignments are with troubled companies, many others are showing outstanding results with historically well-run businesses. It’s both safe and smart to intentionally consider women as part of a CEO candidate pool,” says Paganucci.
At SRI, every shortlist contains diversity candidates (which in the c-suite and board level unfortunately still means women), leading to a higher average of DEI placements than most retained firms. We are committed to purposeful hiring in order to find the great female leaders ready to prove their mettle like:
– General Motors chairman and CEO Mary Barra, one of the most powerful women in the world, that was first dismissed as a “lightweight” by investment bankers on Wall Street. She led the company through a major recall and emerged on the other side stronger and riding a wave into electric vehicles.
– Meg Whitman, former eBay president and CEO, joined the online marketplace in 1998, leading 30 employees with 500,000 registered users and $4.7 million in revenue. In 10 years, the company grew to 15,000 employees, hundreds of millions of registered users worldwide, and almost $7.7 billion in revenue.
– Anne Mulcahy, CEO of Xerox from 2001 to 2009, took the lead when the company had more than $17 billion in debt and was nearing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. A controversial choice at the time, she successfully cut costs, focused on research & innovation, and had the company profitable by 2003.
Will Ms. Yaccarino be a success story or will Twitter prove too big a mountain to climb? In either case, we see no cliff here, but just another qualified, courageous leader taking on a challenge. She’s already a success.