Most people have heard of the glass ceiling and the metaphoric barrier that women, in particular, encounter when trying to advance their careers.
But what about the glass cliff? It’s a concept that’s been piquing Sadia Jahanzeb’s curiosity lately, especially since former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced her retirement in January.
Jahanzeb, Associate Professor of Human Resources Management, is fascinated by the idea that women are encouraged to take positions they’re bound to fail at in order to prove women aren’t good leaders or can’t have it all. She’s especially interested in how that applies to women of colour.
As a woman of colour herself, Jahanzeb says she’s always had supportive people around her “but sometimes, there are so many balls you’re trying to balance.”
One ball that Jahanzeb is balancing masterfully is research. She has been named the Goodman School of Business Emerging Scholar of the Year for the second year in a row, a rare and remarkable achievement for a Faculty member and researcher.
“A lot of times, opportunity is one of the very reasons some people are more successful than others. I feel coming to Brock, and having supportive colleagues and mentors has made it all possible,” Jahanzeb says. “When you feel your research is appreciated, that people understand the research you’re doing and you have like-minded people around you, everything comes together.”
It all starts with an idea, however, and like her interest in Ardern’s seeming march toward the glass cliff, they often come to Jahanzeb when she’s perusing the daily headlines from around the world.
Research provides Jahanzeb with a lens to understand and make sense of what’s going on.
“For me, research is sense-making. I try to make sense of the world through research,” she says. “I feel like every day when I wake up there’s new things coming my way.”
Like Ardern’s resignation.
“With her resigning, lots of people are talking about how women can’t have it all; it’s burnout. There are countless perspectives floating around. I would like to use these perspectives to develop my own. For me, research is developing my own perspectives for what’s happening around me.”
Some of Jahanzeb’s recent work includes a study published in the Applied Psychology International Review about the Big 5 personality traits and how each trait — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — affected job performance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the course of her career, Jahanzeb has concentrated her research on workplace mistreatment and behaviours, including ostracism, bullying, incivility and abusive supervisors. Her interest is rooted in her experience working in banking and academia in Pakistan and Canada.
Her findings have been shared in numerous publications, including the Journal of Business Ethics and the Journal of Business and Psychology.
Jahanzeb hopes her research will bring greater awareness to a topic while building the overall body of knowledge.
“Whenever someone tries to do research, it’s like putting a dot on the landscape and one day, someone else will create another dot, and one day those dots will make a big ball,” she says. “It’s creating awareness around something, leading to better or different practices around the organizational behaviour landscape, and hoping it becomes something more substantial.”