Study Examines Obstacles Faced by Women Aspiring to Be CEOs in America

A new study led by researchers at Florida State University has found that women CEOs in America are paid less, have shorter tenures, and are less likely to serve as chair of the board for their firms. The analysis also found that companies led by a woman do not do as well in the stock market, even when their firms are just as profitable as those run by men.

The researchers found that only 5.4 percent of Fortune 500 company CEOs are women. They found a number of different factors that contributed to this large gender gap. In the male-dominated business world, there is an attitude of “in-group favoritism,” meaning men are more likely to hire other men. Additionally, gender stereotyping also plays a role in the hiring process. Traits that make a good leader, such as being aggressive or a risk-taker, are perceived as more masculine. Women are expected by society to be more nurturing and are therefore put at a severe disadvantage when being considered for CEO positions, according to the authors.

The researchers found that the women who do break through to become CEOs tend to be younger and have less experience. They suggest that young women aspiring to be CEOs pursue early and fast promotions.

Co-author Michael Holmes believes that their findings will bring to light the issues women are facing in the professional world. “By showing these firms perform the same as companies led by male CEOs, let’s get beyond the idea that women can’t be good leaders. Clearly, they are good leaders. They often just aren’t rewarded equally.”

The study, “CEO Gender Differences in Careers and the Moderating Role of Country Culture: A Meta-Analytic Investigation,” was published in the September issue of the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. It may be accessed here.


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