College Essay Examples

The CEO Gender Gap

This chapter presents a literature review of concepts and issues related to gender diversity in the workplace. The essay writer review begins with a discussion of the gender gap related to CEOs, including the discussion of underlying theoretical foundations explaining why this gap may exist. In addition, the review examines stakeholder responses to female CEOs with each section leading to testable hypotheses.

The CEO Gender Gap

Today, too few women become CEOs, despite outnumbering men on college campuses since 1988, and enjoying a record-breaking presence of 41 women, or 8.1 percent, leading Fortune 500 companies in 2021 (Warner et al., 2018; Hinchliffe, 2021). But while the landscape has shifted somewhat, with some researchers going so far as to say that women now make more money than men, barriers still exist (Gupta et al., 2016). Although gender wage gaps have lessened, the gender gap, itself, nevertheless persists, meaning the argument which presumes equal pay exists (an argument frequently advanced inside and outside of academia) entirely misses the point, as men still widely control the seats in management at most top businesses (Gupta et al., 2016).

            Ultimately, the CEO gender gap prevails because women CEOs are unequally disadvantaged by internal and external barriers; most women face sexism at work regardless of their status (Dixon-Fowler et al., 2013). Further, women CEOs generally experience more polarizing stock market reactions in both positive and negative ways, making this discussion important not merely for ethical purposes but also in better understanding today’s business climate (Hentschel et al., 2019).

            Most of the literature readily admits to a glass ceiling, a social barrier defined by a lack of women in senior management, most notably the CEO gender gap (Ragins et al., 1998; Wolfers, 2006; Ng & Sears, 2017). To overcome this glass ceiling, women must surmount countless hurdles despite a so-called level playing field, and gender ratio in the firm can significantly impact internal and external stakeholder responses (Ragins et al., 1998; Wolfers, 2006; Ng & Sears, 2017). However, only recently have scholars undertaken the glass cliff theory, where, even when women advance to these opportunities once thought unreachable, they face even more seemingly unmovable barriers, often absent any outgoing support from management (Dwivedi et al., 2018; Haslam & Ryan, 2008).

The Glass Cliff Problem

Ryan and Halsam (2005) recognize the conjecture concerning the glass cliff problem, which has often been adversarial to women CEOs. The main questions asked are what roles are women given or what leadership positions are given to women who are promoted (Ryan & Halsam, 2005). It is true that women are now gaining traction toward CEO positions, where an unprecedented number of Fortune 500 companies have now appointed women CEOs (Connley, 2021). Nonetheless, the appointment, though a positive step, does not count for all the variables that measure the effort of appointing women CEOs.

The glass cliff problem suggests that women who are promoted will most likely find themselves on a ‘glass cliff’ (Ryan & Halsam, 2005). The hypothesis is that women are most likely appointed during hard times, while men are most likely appointed when the company is performing well (Ryan & Halsam, 2005). Ryan and Halsam’s (2005) study revealed that women were appointed to boards and as CEOs during stock decline. More so, the company will usually be underperforming in the preceding months following women’s appointments (Ryan & Halsam, 2005). Therefore, women experience a glass cliff where they are exposed to adversarial hurdles. On the contrary, men are appointed to the high position when the company is experiencing a good run. Men often will get the benefit of inheriting a more stable company and this idea has been referred to as the ‘glass escalator’ (Ryan & Halsam, 2005).

Boorstin (2020) identifies various instances of the glass cliff. Heyward Donigan was appointed as the CEO of RiteAid after the company stocks had fallen by 95% in the three years prior to her appointment (Boorstin, 2020). Jill Soltau also was appointed when another CEO, Marvin Ellison, was unable to turn the declining stocks of J.C. Penny (Boorstin, 2020). The stocks had declined by 82% leading to her appointment (Boorstin, 2020). When a company is struggling, generally the CEO will be fired, but this is beside the point. The main issue is that a company that is succeeding will be ambiguous about their decision to appoint a woman (Boorstin, 2020). The board most likely will decide against a female CEO indicating they do not have the right leadership (Boorstin, 2020).

            To further compound this point, research indicates female CEOs are more likely to be accepted only when the outgoing CEO shows public support for the new leadership (Dwivedi et al., 2018). Additionally, past research has demonstrated how gatekeeping by male leaders at all levels perpetuates gendered expectations and hierarchies, which are responsible for perpetuating the gender gap (Dwivedi et al., 2018). Moreover, when the company is succeeding, women have a statistically higher rate of being fired (Boorstin, 2020). At this point, the issues that face the rise of women seem to be numerous. However, it is important to note there are exemptions because not all men withhold resources; there are those who choose to facilitate an inclusionary space (Dwivedi et al., 2018).

Thus, to better understand the often complex and polarizing reactions to women CEOs in various contexts, the following sections examine the role congruity and ambivalent sexism theories, both of which have contributed significantly to the theoretical field of academic gender research. These theories will provide a deeper backdrop for parsing through other relevant data and findings for this study and future studies. The first theory, role congruity theory, has everything to do with the power of perceptions that become ingrained into our societies and how they create static interpretations of both femininity and leadership.

Role Congruity Theory


            First conceptualized by Eagly and Karau in 2002, role congruity theory helps to shape a deeper understanding of how gender may relate to CEO selection. At its core, role congruity theory suggests groups are judged based on how well their identities align with their perceived socially assigned roles and socially acceptable definitions of success (Eagly & Diekman, 2005). For example, many men view women as incapable leaders, as a patriarchal (male-dominated) society generally never intends its leaders to be female (Tabassum & Nayak, 2021). As such, it is quite difficult for men and even women to accept female leadership, creating the previously mentioned glass cliff double-bind (Eagly & Karau, 2002; Haslam & Ryan, 2008). To better understand this landscape of misconceptions and perceptions, it is important to examine the implied norms underlying this theory. 

            The first norm is known as descriptive, which depicts female leaders as incapable superiors merely because they are women. As a result, most may feel pressured, consciously or unconsciously, to perform “femininely” in the workplace; as defined by men, this description includes being soft-spoken,  appearing unintelligent, acting passively, and exhibiting a host of other perceived anti-leadership qualities that perpetuate the CEO gender gap (Eagly & Karau, 2002; Madden, 2011). On the other hand, injunctive norms, also called prescriptive norms, are akin to spectacles and are far more reactionary forms of bias, which include social expectations that presume what women ought to be.  For example, women are perceived as “stepping out of line” when they demonstrate or strive for leadership potential or positions because of the widely held belief “women should be passive” (Eagly & Karau, 2002; Madden, 2011).

            Ultimately, while one may seem more benign than the other, both norms represent a double-edged barrier for women to navigate their agency and leadership potential at work (Glick, 2013). And, while role congruity explains why groups lash out against women CEOs, ambivalent sexism theory explains how they do it.

Ambivalent Sexism (AS) Theory

            Largely credited to Glick and Fiske (1996), ambivalent sexism theory is another useful tool for understanding how sexism permeates not only our society but businesses in a very specific way, thereby complicating the process for advancement for all women.

            AS theory describes sexism in two ways, hostile sexism and benevolent sexism. Hostile sexism refers to negative attitudes toward individuals who violate traditional gender stereotypes; it is essentially misogyny and reflects the belief that all women are incompetent, emotional, and sexually manipulative (Glick et al., 1997; Leaper & Brown, 2014), whereas benevolent sexism operates under the guise of socially acceptable behavior characterized by “subjectively favorable (but patronizing) attitudes toward women” (Glick & Fiske, 1996; Glick, 2013). Both sexism forms share fundamental components which perpetuate patriarchal paternalism, gender differentiation, and sexual objectification (Glick & Fiske, 1996).

            First, paternalism is an action that limits the independence of someone, assuming a level of superiority and demonstrating an ethic of protection (Glick & Fiske, 1996). For example, when a man comments on the look of a woman and calls her cute, he may mean well in performing his role but is ultimately being patronizing, assuming her appearance and his opinion matter (Glick & Fiske, 1996). Next, gender differentiation refers to assigning social significance to biological differences between the sexes; it is a process that reinforces gender roles, justifies co-dependence between men and women, and is used to rationalize the supremacy of a gender (Glick & Fiske, 1996). And third, heterosexuality, or the attraction to the opposite sex or gender, can justify sexual objectification and idealize women as sexually pure (Glick & Fiske, 1996).

            While most people think of benevolent sexism as preferable to hostile sexism, they are two sides of the same coin; benevolence creates hostility by justifying reactionary aggression once rejected and reinforces male power and privilege through the hero image (Glick, 2013). For example, if his chivalry is denied, the stereotypical nice guy becomes a textbook misogynist, and if it gets praised, he represents the best parts of masculinity (Glick, 2013). Additionally, benevolent sexism may be the root cause of hostile sexism; most nations condoning benevolent sexism also accept hostile sexism and tend to have fewer women in high-ranking leadership positions in government and business (Glick, 2013). Finally, benevolent sexism inspires self-doubt in women, making it systematically harmful and hard to combat in many environments, and this may have profound effects as to the acceptance of women in
CEO positions (Glick, 2013).

Current Stakeholder Responses

The CEO Gender Gap

            Understanding how stakeholder groups perceive CEOs based on gender and other factors is crucial to understanding the CEO gender gap (Dixon-Fowler et al., 2013). Stakeholders are individuals or groups with an interest or quantifiable impact on businesses and become classified by their internal and external statuses (Donald & Preston, 1995). The four groups most relevant to this discussion are the internal stakeholder group of managers and employees and the external stakeholder group of stockholders and customers (Donald & Preston, 1995). However, because the relationships between CEOs and internal stakeholders rely much more on subjective experiences, external stakeholder responses, in particular, can provide the most objective sense of the multiple mediated relationships between CEO gender, firm performance, and stakeholder reactions. Thus, the following sections explore two external stakeholder groups (stockholders and customers) concerning CEO gender and their subsequent responses.

External Stakeholder – Stockholder Group

            Given the theoretical foundations of ambivalent sexism theory and role congruity theory previously introduced, the research suggests external stakeholders can drastically impact female-led firms based on broad perceptions of gender-based strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, this creates a business landscape where women bring unique advantages and disadvantages to firms in specific contexts. Regarding stockholders as a group, several factors affect CEO announcements based on gender stereotypes and data.

            To this end, Matsa and Miller (2013) examined the result of Norway’s mandated gender quotas for all corporate boards of directors (BOD) of all public companies, which increased female representation to 40 percent in two years. From this result, the study noted various corporate areas that were affected or unaffected after women’s board representation increased (Matsa & Miller, 2013).  Matsa and Miller (2013) also note that non-labor costs were unaffected, whereas relative labor costs increased, and employee layoffs and short-run profits decreased; meanwhile, some affected firms took risks in the form of mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures.  However, the study ultimately concluded labor hoarding to be a distinct female leadership style, regardless of age or experience level, suggesting a more concerned and long-term approach employed by women CEOs (Matsa & Miller, 2013). It should be noted that changes in human resources management did not prove detrimental to overall firm performance, including growth and profitability (Matsa & Miller, 2013). Finally, Matsa and Miller (2013) predict this trend will continue and possibly increase as more female CEOs are selected for their style and select more like-minded executives to do business and influence their existing managers.

            Next, Sah (2021) expands upon this notion of hoarding in the context of capital preservation. Female-led firms demonstrated a unique strategy defined by stable growth and capital preservation, taking fewer financial risks than men, including long-term research and development (R&D) projects and mergers and acquisitions (M&A), which do not intrinsically increase shareholder value (Sah, 2021). Instead, female CEOs hold onto more cash inflow, reverse cash debts faster, increase dividends, and generate a higher Return on Assets (ROA) than their male cohorts, generally out-performing them (Sah, 2021). Thus, Sah (2021) also predicts female CEOs will continue to stockpile cash and invest it back into the shareholders through an increased number of payouts via dividends; thus, “female CEOs hold more cash, reverse cash deficits faster, and are more likely to use excess cash to increase dividends” (p. 29). That becomes especially likely as firms consider managerial risk aversion a company expense, and stockholders, too, prefer lower returns and known risks over higher returns and the unknown (Sah, 2021). Finally, Sah (2021) notes shareholders are tolerant of risks if the firm can afford it, meaning, as more cash becomes stockpiled, women CEOs are bound to embark on more significant financial risks without sacrificing overall financial performance.

            Further, Ahmed (2020) examines dividend smoothing in five Asian markets (India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, and Sri Lanka) between 2009 and 2018 by analyzing four determinants, including company governance system, gender ratio (30% is necessary to make a significant change, according to the critical mass theory), market-to-book value (growth), and ownership structure. Ahmed (2020) found gender ratio, family ownership, and higher market-to-book value contribute positively to dividend smoothing behavior in the Asian market. More specifically, female directors were vital to smoothing dividends and reducing agency conflicts, as principal-agent problems between managers and stockholders result from separate ownership and represent a cost of conflict of interest (Ahmed, 2020). However, Ahmed (2020) suggests gender diversity reduces information asymmetry and creates better relations between management and stockholders.

            However, these gender-mediated advantages in the eyes of stockholders come with a price. Dassen (2021) examined 112 female CEO/CFO appointments and investor reactions. The studies found stockholders prefer female CEOs in low-growth firms (Dassen, 2021). Glass and Cook (2016) found 44% of women are appointed when a firm is doing well (versus 70% for men), and 42% of women are promoted when the firm is struggling (contrasted with only 22% of men). While female CEO announcement provides no notable effect on short-term stock performance, revenue growth and gender ratio can determine the announcement, itself (Dassen, 2021). Additionally, the results confirm the widely held market belief “firms in different growth stages need different forms of risk,” which influences CEO and company ties to risk-aversion and risk tolerance (Dassen, 2021). Specifically, CEO appointments positively affect stockholder wealth, while gender and other factors can influence the perceived benefits of CEO turnover (Dassen, 2021). Dassen (2021) predicts women will continue to receive non-welcoming reactions in high-growth firms while being perceived as more capable of navigating low-growth firms.
            Additionally, stockholder responses suggest the stock market is motivated by gender bias and homogeneity. First, when women CEOs are appointed, other women buy stocks, men sell theirs, and vice versa (Longin & Santacreu-Vasut, 2020). But bonds and debtholders play a role here, too. First, Oyotode et al. (2015) analyzed 65 female and 65 male-led firms between 2002 and 2015 and they acknowledge bond data varies depending on firm characteristics, fluctuation, and infrequent trading. However, they argue bond performances and debtholder reactions to female CEO announcements are similar to external shareholder responses because they become “sensitive to changes that alter risk, both upwards and downwards”. However, they describe the relationship between CEO gender and debtholder wealth as being widely undetermined (Oyotode et al., 2015). Ultimately, Oyotode et al. (2015) found women-led firms receive an overwhelmingly negative response from bondholders but predict this trend will change as female CEOs become more common and increased perceptions of female CEO leadership style emerge (especially regarding risk-aversion).

            Next, Oliver (2018) investigates corporate violations, CEO gender, and shareholder responses by focusing on violation type (stereotyping) and crisis communication style. Female CEOs bring unique strengths in leadership, including the benefit of empathetic perceptions, to their firms during various post-crisis phases, yet also are punished more if they issue crisis denials, which are considered stereotypically masculine crisis responses (Oliver, 2018). The results also indicated archival settings (financial analysts) generally discriminate against women by attributing more blame to women during lawsuits (Oliver, 2018). In addition, firm stakeholders engage in rationalization in response to gender norm violations during crisis periods (Oliver, 2018). Lastly, Oliver (2018) predicts more female CEOs will continue to accommodate stakeholders with the conforming performance of a remorseful and empathetic leadership response style during a crisis, resulting in less damaging stakeholder reactions.

            Further, the struggles against and need for female CEOs are not limited to the Western world. Chandani et al. (2014) examine the relationship between CEO gender and bank performance by examining ICICI, the top female-led private sector bank in India, and financial statements according to the CAMEL system. Chandani et al. (2014) also note the historical relationships of India, banks, and gender create unique conditions for women in top management positions to understand female leadership performance in this unique context. Chandani et al. (2014) pay special attention to three factors: 1) the national economic development of India has vitally depended on banks, 2) banks represent the country’s most notoriously male-dominated markets, and 3) more women are starting to lead more in the financial assets industry, especially in urban areas and given corrective Indian policy-making and globalization. According to the analyzed financial performances via CAMEL scores, female directors can lead as well as men, even in the most extreme circumstances with far-reaching and deeply rooted economic and gender backgrounds (Chandani et al., 2014).


            Finally, according to these findings, women CEOs bring many talents to their firms but must navigate a plethora of political stipulations. Women in these high-profile leadership positions demonstrate positive qualities, such as labor hoarding, stable growth, capital preservation, and improved relations between management and stockholders, especially on smaller Boards of Directors (Ahmed, 2020; Matsa & Miller, 2013; Sah, 2001). However, female CEOs are pigeonholed into low-growth firms, and bondholders react negatively to their appointments (Dassen, 2021; Oyotode et al., 2015). Based on the findings related to stockholder responses to CEO gender, the following hypothesis is developed.

  • Hypothesis 1: There is a correlation between CEO gender and stockholder responses. The null hypothesis indicates there is no correlation between CEO gender and stockholder responses.

External Stakeholder – Customer Group

            While stockholder responses illuminate one aspect of the landscape facing female CEOs and all women in the workplace, stockholder reactions, alone, do not portray the totality of the external stakeholder response equation. Customers often are considered the lifeblood of any business and convey pertinent information through secondary data, including sales; through these means, future researchers can garner a better understanding of the CEO gender gap. Regarding customer responses, several factors or mediators can influence the success or failure of a female-led firm in the eyes or pockets of their consumers.

            First, post-failure responses from CEOs affect customer reactions through the lens of gender. Cowen and Montgomery (2020) examine how customers respond to product failures of organizations differently depending on CEO gender and response type during the post-failure period. They argue female CEO response types are more successful when responding in an unqualified apology contrasted by alternative responses (Cowen & Montgomery, 2020). However, they note consumer reactions are ambivalent to male CEO post-failure response types, meaning men can generally respond successfully in any way (Cowen & Montgomery, 2020). Product failures affect consumer and other stakeholder judgments, resulting in declining sales (Cowen & Montgomery). Further, these crisis response strategies (and their subsequent customer reactions) can directly affect firm performance and survival, especially during legal troubles, making this an urgent question for companies and CEOs when appointments occur (Cowen & Montgomery, 2020). Finally, Cowen and Montgomery (2020) predict expanding images of female CEOs as self-empowering and agentic could help mitigate these differences, given CEO leadership characteristics can significantly shape post-failure response actions during times of vulnerability.


            Next, Maiorescu (2016) agrees with this point and elaborates, arguing women CEOs face an uneven public standard among customers by investigating media blame attribution. They examined crisis communication, shareholder responses, and CEO gender through two recent crises in the automotive industry, the 2014 GM ignition switch crisis and the 2010 Toyota accelerator crisis (Maiorescu, 2016). The results found the media drive blame attribution and can influence whether directors respond in accommodating or non-accommodating styles based on gendered perceptions and psychological needs shared and perpetuated by the media, the public, and shareholders (Maiorescu, 2016). Physical market needs include compensation and communication, while psychological market needs refer to certainty and apologies (Maiorescu, 2016). According to Maiorescu (2016), the findings support the effectiveness of situational strategies during a crisis to help weaken preventable reputational damages, which threaten organizations the most, given public expectations and market biases. Indeed, customers generally view women through mass media during crisis events, wherein they judge the women leaders before them on television based on their perceived masculine or feminine response type (Cowen & Montgomery, 2020; Maiorescu, 2016). Finally, Maiorescu (2016) argues men should be trained in female-associated speech styles, and women should be trained in male-associated response types to counteract this discursive trend.

            Third, the social and political changes of a female-led firm can attract or deter consumers. Lu et al. (2020) focused on the relationship between CEO gender and corporate social responsibility initiatives (CSR), an extension of feminist business ethics that values diversity, equality, and inclusion as the most desirable social outcomes in businesses. The research suggests female directors equally prioritize social factors, meaning they reject unethical behaviors more than men, not merely because of higher moral principles but also due to reputational pressure (Lu et al., 2020). Ultimately, that demonstrates women are more likely to accelerate these initiatives in top management positions (Lu et al., 2020). Lu et al. (2020) found customer perspectives, firm gender ratio, and other firm conditions positively affect CSR initiatives and note CSR is considered a public good despite morality representing a disadvantage for female management. Finally, the results predict a more interconnected approach to CSR and gender diversity could attract more customers and achieve financial benefits (Lu et al., 2020).

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            Further, the relationship between the size of the business and CEO gender, directly and indirectly, affects customer responses (profitability) via market orientation. To this end, Davis et al. (2010) measured CEO gender, market orientation, growth, and profitability among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Market orientation is vital to SME performances because it prioritizes and satisfies consumer wants and needs through organization-wide intelligence addressing current and future customer needs, distributing said information across departments, and organization-wide strategies utilizing this knowledge (Davis et al., 2010). Additionally, Davis et al. (2010) note while market orientation is inherently non-gendered, society is entrenched in gender norms, and images of women as relationship-focused leaders drive customer perceptions, directly and indirectly affecting market performance. Ultimately, they found women-led SMEs grew and profited significantly more than male-led firms of the same size due to their stronger market orientation and connection to their customer base (Davis et al., 2010). They also performed slightly better than their male-led counterparts when translating market growth into financial performance, but not enough to merit significant attention (Davis et al., 2010).

            Additionally, to better understand customer responses to female CEOs, it is vital to understand differences between customers across lines of gender. In this regard, Ndubisi (2006) examined gender, customer loyalty, and the tenets of relationship marketing (RM), including conflict resolution, trust, commitment, and communication. The study examined customers of banks in Malaysia and cross-checked the survey data using hierarchical multiple regression analysis. Ultimately, Ndubisi (2006) found these four tenets of RM were directly linked with customer loyalty and extreme gender differences mediated the trust-loyalty relationship between customers and the company. Specifically, female customers were found to be more loyal to highly trustworthy banks than male customers, suggesting banks could significantly benefit from prioritizing trust-loyalty relationships with their female consumer bases (Ndubisi, 2006).

            Finally, customer responses to CEO gender proved to be complex yet measurable. The various studies mentioned here and throughout this work strongly suggest this external stakeholder group could respond differently to female CEOs based on several perceptions or mediators. These most notably include post-failure response styles (unqualified apology vs. qualified apology), media-driven blame attribution during crises, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives (Cowen & Montgomery, 2020; Maiorescu, 2016; Lu et al., 2020). Additional mediators include business size, market orientation, customer gender, and overall company trustworthiness (Davis et al., 2010; Ndubisi, 2006). Based on the findings related to customer response to female CEOs, the following hypothesis is developed.

  • Hypothesis 2: There is a correlation between CEO gender and customer responses. The null hypothesis indicates there is no correlation between CEO gender and customer responses.

Summary of Literature Review

            Overall, a literature review of research related to the appointment of women CEOs suggests a complex gender gap exists despite long-held research indicating no statistically relevant gender pay gap exists between male and female CEOs (Haslam & Ryan, 2008). In a sense, that gap exists because women are treated as a singular group whereas men are treated as individuals, and women often are set up for failure when promoted (Dixon-Fowler et al., 2013; Gupta et al., 2016).

            Utilizing the role congruity and ambivalent sexism theories proved helpful to explain customer and stockholder responses, which can contribute a more holistic understanding of the CEO gender gap. In addition, the findings presented here suggest women may experience backlash when they are appointed as CEOs due to customer and stockholder responses (McDonald et al., 2018; Shen & Canella, 2002; Longin & Santacreu-Vasut, 2020). That creates a harmful and complex psychosocial workplace environment for women with national and global ramifications (Lyons, 2004; Glick, 2013). Thus, although female CEOs may be earning the same relative income as male CEOs, the public perception is still generally less receptive to females leading companies.

            Further, female CEOs present several advantages as well as disadvantages for the company, itself. As previously mentioned, in many cases the market points to a notable decrease in stock performance upon the appointment of a female CEO (Lee & James, 2007; Kolev, 2012; Dixon-Fowler et al., 2013). There are numerous potential explanations for the different outcomes of these studies, including the possibility that female CEOs are accepted by shareholders in some industries or when appointed to a struggling firm (Cook & Glass, 2011; Glass & Cook, 2016; Dassen, 2021). Still, female CEOs may be preferred in high-risk positions due to their perceived strategic leadership styles regarding labor and cash hoarding, and conflict-resolution skills (Miller, 2013; Ahmed, 2020; Sah, 2021). Moreover, female-led firms create stable growth and capital preservations by avoiding financial risks like research and development (R&D) projects and mergers and acquisitions (M&A), unlike their male CEO counterparts. That enables women to pursue significant risks more strategically through non-essential cash funds when they break through the glass ceiling, better equipping them to navigate the glass cliff (Haslam & Ryan, 2998; Sah, 2021).

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            Ultimately, women CEOs must navigate far more disadvantageous circumstances upon their appointment, though this can vary depending on firm size and gender ratio (Cook & Glass, 2011). And though scholars expect struggles to continue among external and internal stakeholders, hopefully, the research does indicate a brighter future for female CEOs across the world.



This chapter delineates the research methodology on the current study of women CEOs. The methodology chapter will explore the problem statement, purpose, and rational of the study. The chapter also lists the methods used in data collection, the samples collected, limitations and the ethical guidance used. More so, the section is vital in developing a practical plan for analyzing the data collected making it easier for this research study to come up with the results.

Restatement of the Problem

            The research problem that needs to be addressed here relates to the CEO gender gap. There are too few women who have been given the role of management. Actually, there were a total of 41 women leading the Fortune 500 companies by 2021, which only translates to 8.1 percent of the total CEOs (Warner et al., 2018). While this is as an improvement from the time when there were no women CEO’s, this research study intends to see why this gender is still wide. It is necessary to expound on the external and the internal factors that affect the women CEO, if any. Moreover, the women CEO faces a glass cliff problem when they are appointed (Ryan & Halsam, 2005). The companies they are appointed in are usually facing existential crisis as the stocks are falling. Though the study does not entirely look at the glass cliff problem, it expounds on the external and internal factors that affect these women in top leadership. The stakeholder group is vital in the running of the company. As earlier noted, the relationship between the CEO and the internal stakeholder group is subjective, but that of the external stakeholder group could be measured. Therefore, the response of the external stakeholders could be measured by looking at how they respond to the appointment of a woman CEO against that of man CEO. Again, another external stakeholder is the customer group. The customers are pertinent to the revenue made by any business. The business is able to make a profit because customers are in need of the company’s products. Therefore, it becomes easier to quantify the demand for the product and any changes that appear after there is a gender change in a company’s top position.

Purpose of the Statement

            The study takes up a correlational quantitative approach by trying to compare the performances of the companies based on gender changes. Specifically, the study will explore whether gender changes are able to increase the stockholder value and the customer’s demand for the product. The study is vital in confirming the truths behind the role congruity theory and the ambivalent sexism theory.

Rationale of the Study

            The study is vital in understanding the role of gender in the company. Even though women may be employed in a glass cliff, the study is necessary to establish whether there are any performance differences. According to the role congruity theory, women are judged according to how they align with socially accepted definitions (Eagly & Diekman, 2005). Therefore, the top positions in companies are male dominated and women are seen as incapable leaders because of patriarchal goals. More so, women are pressured to behave in the perceived feminine nature where they ought to be submissive. The top positions are meant for men who can easily outperform women in generating profits and creating stockholder value. Another theory is the ambivalent sexism theory where gender roles are influenced by hostile sexism and benevolent sexism. Companies that change gender roles by appointing women CEOs will face gender stereotypes. According to the theory, women are intrinsically incompetent, emotional, sexually manipulative (Glick et al., 1997). In addition, such women should stay within their socially acceptedstandards and behaviors (Glick, 2013). The main point is that any company that employs a woman as the CEO will face such stereotyping. The company’s statistical performance and indicators should automatically drop with the gender change to women CEOs. Therefore, this study looks at the efficacy of these theories. It seeks to come up with an objective measure that can compare the performances of a company where there has been a gender change and where there were no gender changes. The major issue is comparing the role played by women in the creation of wealth and other health indicators in the company. Mostly, the study will approve or disapprove the stereotypes of women CEOs based on the results found.

Research Questions and Hypothesis

            The study is a correlational design where data is collected to answer the following questions: 1) Do gender changes affect the stockholder value in a company. 2) Do gender changes affect the demand for the product. The study is meant to check whether the women CEOs affect the health indicators of a company. According to the stereotypes, the women CEOs will naturally downgrade the company. They are intrinsically incapable of running a company. Women have inherent capabilities that are better suited for other tasks rather leading an organization. Nonetheless, in the effort of coming up with an objective measure, it is noted that only the stockholder value and customer demand could be measured impartially. In measuring the stockholder value, the stock price of a company is collected, whereas in measuring the demand for a product, the revenue of the product is measured. Any other measure could only be biased especially the relationship between the CEO and other board members because there exists no quantifiable data to be collected. To this end, the following hypothesis are proposed:

  • Hypothesis 1: There is a correlation between CEO gender and stockholder responses. The null hypothesis indicates there is no correlation between CEO gender and stockholder responses.
  • Hypothesis 2: There is a correlation between CEO gender and customer responses. The null hypothesis indicates there is no correlation between CEO gender and customer responses.

Population and Sample

            The study population are all the Fortune 500 companies that are based in the U.S. The study takes up data that has been posted through the performance index of these companies. However, a sample of these companies is collected to increase the ability to work with the data presented. To reach a 90 percent confidence level with +/-5 percent margin for error, 100 companies were required. The sample size was determined by fist picking all the Fortune 500 companies that had women CEOs. Apparently, there were only 41 companies that had employed women CEOs. The other 59 companies were picked starting from the first company in the list of the Fortune 500 companies. These other companies had men CEOs.

The CEO Gender Gap

Research Methods and Design

            This sub-section represents the research instruments and methods that were used. It is a discussion of the data collection processes and the operational variables of the study. It also comes up with assumptions used in the collection of the data that may affect the analysis or the overall bias of the study. Lastly, it shows the quantitative analysis that the data will undergo to prove the hypotheses created.

Operational Variables and Research Instruments

            The data was collected based on posted performance indicators by the company. The data were collected into two sets of data. The first set of data involved the collection of stockholder stock prices. The second set of data was collected from the demand by the customers, which was done by collecting the revenue of the company. The two sets of data were collected over a three-year period after the appointment of the CEO to ensure that any increase or decrease in these performance indicators is noted.

Data Collection Process

            The data was collected from the data posted in the Fortune 500 companies. The data is freely available and it does not require the consent of the companies or Fortune 500 companies. The data is secondary data as it has been analyzed and posted by the companies concerned. Nonetheless, the collected data has been audited and results measured according to GAAP accounting standards before being posted. Therefore, the data is the accurate representation of the company’s position.


            The study comes up with some inherent assumptions. First, the study assumes that the glass cliff problem will be of no effect in the performance of women CEOs. Secondly, it is assumed that a three-year period is sufficient to understand the performance of the CEOs.

Quantitative Data Analysis

            After the data collection process, the data was placed in an Excel spreadsheet. The data was categorized into the two data sets: women CEOs and men CEOs. The secondary data was entered into SPSS statistics software for a one-way analysis of variance technique (ANOVA) for data analysis. In the current study, one-way ANOVA is used to test whether there were any statistical differences between the performance indicators of women CEOs and men CEOs.


            The study is limited because it did not first consider the glass cliff problem. According to the glass cliff problem, women are given companies that are performing poorly. Therefore, it is relatively harder for a woman to manage such a company than a man who is appointed when the company is performing well. In addition, the data is taken from only the first three years of performance of the current CEOs. This method of collection does not account for the long-term expansions that a company would gain from either CEO. Moreover, the results could be affected by short term spikes of the performance indicators that are caused by sudden global changes, such as the prevalent COVID-19.

Ethical Assurances

            The study collected all its data from the online posted company indicators in the Fortune 500 company website. The data is freely available for fair use and consumption. The data is meant to be used for purely intellectual reasons, which does not require the consent of the companies concerned.


            Chapter III has stipulated the research methodology of this study. The study population was dawn from the Fortune 500 companies. A sample of 100 companies was chosen where there were 41 companies with women CEOs and 59 companies with men CEOs. The data was collected for the first 3 years after the appointment of each CEO. The data collected included the stock price and the revenue for each company. Nonetheless, the data was freely available in the Fortune 500 company’s website.


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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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