What Prevents Female Executives from Reaching the Top?

62 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2016 Last revised: 8 May 2018

Matti Keloharju

Aalto University School of Business; Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Samuli Knüpfer

BI Norwegian Business School; Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)

Joacim Tåg

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)

Date Written: May 7, 2018

Abstract

Exceptionally rich data from Sweden makes studying the gender gap in executives’ career progression and investigating its causes possible. In their 40s, female executives are about half as likely to be large-company CEOs and about one third less likely to be high earners than males. Abilities, skills, and education likely do not explain these gaps, because female executives appear better qualified than males. Instead, slow career progression in the five years after the first childbirth explains most of the female disadvantage. During this period, female executives work on average shorter hours than males and are more often absent from work. Their responses to childbirth are invariant to their career potential relative to their partners. These results suggest aspiring women may not reach the executive suite without trading off family life.

JEL Classification: G34, J16; J24; J31

Suggested Citation

Keloharju, Matti and Knüpfer, Samuli and Tåg, Joacim, What Prevents Female Executives from Reaching the Top? (May 7, 2018). IFN Working Paper No. 1111; Harvard Business School Research Paper Series No. 16-092. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2730207 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2730207

Matti Keloharju (Contact Author)

Aalto University School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 21210
AALTO, FI-00076
Finland

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) ( email )

Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

Samuli Knüpfer

BI Norwegian Business School ( email )

Nydalsveien 37
Oslo, 0442
Norway

HOME PAGE: http://www.samuliknupfer.com

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)

Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden

Joacim Tåg

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) ( email )

Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden

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