After five seasons of climbing their way up the ladder at Empirical, the women of Younger are finally getting their due. Liza (Sutton Foster) is no longer balancing coffee runs for Diana (Miriam Shor) with editing books on the side. Instead, she’s a full-on editor and co-leader of the Millennial imprint. And Kelsey (Hilary Duff) isn’t just a star publisher on the rise: She’s the head of Empirical, and the new Charles (Peter Hermann). Over the past five seasons, we’ve watched Liza and Kelsey fight for respect in the company, push to have more women’s-focused literature published, and for their imprint to be given higher status. And now they have it. All of it. They’re calling the shots and running the C-suite. “It felt weird at first. It’s just the three of us sitting in the conference rooms. It feels earned,” Sutton Foster tells Glamour. But just because it feels earned doesn’t mean the women of Younger are ready to celebrate.
The first episode of the season opens with Lauren (Molly Bernard) shooting social videos of Kelsey as she enters the office and telling her, “You are a role model for every young girl with an English degree who wants to believe she didn’t throw away four years of her life. You are the youngest publisher in New York right now, and you are defining a cultural moment.” But Kelsey, who’s normally the type to shout about her successes, seems nervous. Like, really nervous. Gone is the girl who fought to launch her own imprint and treated winning manuscripts out from other editors like a sport. At first, it seems like she just needs to get her sea legs and adjust to her new title—but about halfway through the episode, we find out why Kelsey isn’t displaying her usual confidence.
When an author comes in to talk to Liza and Kelsey about a business book called The Glass Cliff, the issues stacked against Kelsey begin to crystalize. The author begins her pitch with, “Research shows when companies invite women into their C-suites, they experience a 27 percent decline in revenue. Why? Why are women underperforming? Or maybe we shouldn’t be blaming the women at all. Maybe they’re being set up to fail. Women inherit distressed companies far more often than their male counterparts. When an institution is in crisis, the next man up usually gets the axe, so why not make him a woman?”
This isn’t just a fictional premise. The term “glass cliff” was first coined in 2005, and according to research, is just as prevalent of a problem today. With Kelsey’s promotion coming on the heels of a new, risky stakeholder taking financial control of the company, her appointment feels like an opportunity to make her a scapegoat in case Empirical goes under. And it’s not lost on her.