CATHERINE Lewis La Torre has revealed her friends warned about the risks of women being “set up to fail” in high-profile roles when she took over as interim chief executive at the British Business Bank (BBB).
She was previously chief executive of British Patient Capital and the BBB’s commercial arm, British Business Investments, having built a career in venture capital and private equity fund management before joining the BBB in 2016.
Her friends warned her about the “glass cliff” analogy, where a woman is given the impossible job that men do not want to do and is set up to fail. But she does not believe this happened to her.
Speaking at a virtual event held by fintech trade body Innovate Finance last month, she revealed that she was called into a meeting with then-business secretary Alok Sharma last year who said it was not the right time to find an external chief executive to replace Morgan and she was asked to fill the role.
This coincided with the BBB rolling out the government’s emergency lending schemes such as coronavirus business interruption loans.
“I think he felt I had the right qualities,” she said. “We have continued to grow and introduce new things to the market.
“I have managed to keep the ship on an even keel and am still standing.
“I am very happy it’s been the opportunity of my career to be at the centre of this whirlwind and things that needed to happen.
“Long may it continue.”
The glass cliff concept, coined by British professors Michelle Ryan and Alexander Haslam of University of Exeter, argues that women are more likely to achieve leadership roles in periods of crisis when the chance of failure is highest.
They suggest that women are better suited to leading stressed or unhappy companies because they are believed to be more nurturing and creative than men.
Women will not necessarily improve the situation but they are seen as good people managers who can take the blame for organisational failure, according to research.