Strategic Management Journal

Cover image for Vol. 35 Issue 13

Edited By: Richard A. Bettis, Alfonso Gambardella, Constance Helfat, Will Mitchell

Impact Factor: 2.993

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2013: 11/110 (Business); 18/172 (Management)

Online ISSN: 1097-0266

Associated Title(s): Global Strategy Journal, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal

International Women's Day 2014


Strategic Management Journal

Introduction: Collection of articles at SMJ concerning promotion of women to senior management positions

Two decades of corporate women: Some progress in the boardroom, little change at the top

Will Mitchell, in collaboration with Richard Bettis, Alfonso Gambardella, and Constance Helfat (co-editors of SMJ) and Aija Leiponen (SMS Media Innovations co-editor)
(March 6, 2014)

We are delighted to provide a brief introduction to a strong set of papers that have delved into questions concerning promotion of women to senior management positions, in celebration of International Women’s Day. We have selected five intriguing papers from SMJ, reaching back to 1999 and forward to papers currently in the Early View stage of publication. For a broader set of readings, we encourage you to look through the compendium of thought-provoking research that Wiley has posted in celebration of women’s accomplishments [www.wileyiwdresearch.com].

There is growing interest in opportunities for women to reach senior management positions, both to provide greater diversity in ideas and strategy and in terms of basic equity. Current high profile examples of women with senor leadership roles include Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw at Biocon, Cher Wang at HTC, Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi at Pepsico, Stacey Mowbray at Second Cup, Meg Whitman at Hewlett Packard (previously at eBay), Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, and Mary Barra at General Motors. Earlier highly visible examples include Anne Mulcahy at Xerox (2001-2009). However, such examples – while inspiring – continue to be exceptions. Although some strides may be underway, a glass ceiling still appears to exist in many companies.

The five papers from SMJ have a consistently sobering message about barriers to promotion, with some hints of potential changes.
Studying trends from the late 1980s through the mid 1990s, Daily, Certo, and Dalton (1999) documented an increase of women’s representation as outside members of corporate boards among Fortune 500 firms (1996 versus 1987) without, however, finding a parallel increase of inside director or CEO positions.

During a similar time period (1990 to 2000), Lee and James (2007) find that rather than respond positively to appointments of women CEOs to U.S. corporations, stock markets tend to react negatively, particularly in the case of women appointed from outside the firm. Not surprisingly, though, the results reflected a very small number of cases: 17 women among 529 CEO appointments in the study.

A decade later, Dezsö and Ross (2012) asked whether firms tend to reap the benefits of greater diversity when they have women among the top management team, examining firms in the S&P 1500 from 1992 through 2006. They find benefits in firms with innovation-focused strategies, where they posit that gender diversity creates particularly strong informational benefits.

More recently, Kogut, Colomer, and Belinky (2013) take aim at the continuing paucity of women directors on corporate boards. They suggest that imposing quotas would help break structural impediments to appointments that stem from long-standing power distributions that can impede both socially desirable and corporate beneficial changes. The study uses estimates from experience in Norway to suggest that modest numerical quotas can potentially generate well-connected networks of women directors who attain equality in their centrality and influence.

Also within the past year, Cook and Glass (2013) examine Fortune 500 companies from 1996 to 2010 to ask what factors influence the promotion probabilities of women and racial/ethnic minorities to CEO positions. They find that such “occupational minorities” are relatively more likely to be promoted as CEOs at weakly performing firms and, moreover, when firm performance declines during the tenure of occupational minority CEOs, they tend be replaced by white men.

The most straightforward implication across these five studies is that there is still a long way to go to achieve goals of gender equity in senior leadership positions, with strong potential gains in both social and corporate benefit. While MBA programs actively admit women, and women in turn then enter executive positions at corporations throughout the world, promotion typically continues to stop before the C-suite. The nature of the barriers that produce these results, whether from structural, personal, or other sources – and, in turn, when and how the barriers might affect corporate performance – is beginning to receive attention but is open to much more research. The existence of the barriers, though, is unambiguous.

Enjoy the following articles from the Strategic Management Journal for free in celebration of International Women's Day:

International Women's Day


Female and Ethnically Diverse Executives Endure Inequity in the CEO Position or Do They Benefit from Their Minority Status? An Empirical Examination
Aaron D. Hill, Arun D. Upadhyay and Rafik I. Beekun

Structural equality at the top of the corporation: Mandated quotas for women directors
Bruce Kogut, Jodi Colomer, Mariano Belinky

Above the glass ceiling: When are women and racial/ethnic minorities promoted to CEO?
Alison Cook, Christy Glass

A decade of corporate women: some progress in the boardroom, none in the executive suite
Catherine M. Daily, S. Trevis Certo, Dan R. Dalton

Does female representation in top management improve firm performance? A panel data investigation
Cristian L. Dezsö, David Gaddis Ross

She'-e-os: gender effects and investor reactions to the announcements of top executive appointments
Peggy M. Lee, Erika Hayes James

Click here to view more articles in recognition of International Women's Day.

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