Even if Doing a Good Job, Women CEOs More Likely to be Fired

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Women CEOs are much more likely than male CEOs to be dismissed, even when the women are performing well, according to research from The University of Alabama.

The findings are detailed in the paper “You’re Fired! Gender Disparities in CEO Dismissal,” which is accepted for publication in the Journal of Management.

Drs. Sandra Mortal and Vishal Gupta


Female CEOs are about 45 percent more likely than male CEOs to be dismissed from their firms. Also, while performance improvements protect male CEOs from dismissal, they do not protect female CEOs, according to the study of public firms in the United States.

“Dismissing the CEO is usually viewed as evidence of good corporate governance as it suggests that the board is taking its monitoring role seriously, however our research reveals there are invisible, but serious, gender biases in how the board evaluates CEOs and its decision to retain or fire particular CEOs,” said Dr. Sandra Mortal, co-author and associate professor in the UA Culverhouse College of Business.

The research did not examine whether the boards are aware of their biases in dismissing women CEOs.

Along with Mortal, co-authors include Dr. Vishal Gupta, UA associate professor at Culverhouse, with Dr. Minxing Sun, of Clemson University, Dr. Sabatino Silveri, of the University of Memphis, and Dr. Daniel Turban, of the University of Missouri.

Gupta said the research started because consulting companies, along with the popular and business press, have raised concerns about the higher incidence of dismissals among women CEOs compared to men. The researchers wanted to determine through rigorous statistical research and cutting-edge econometrics tools if dismissals are more common among women CEOs, he said.

The study relied on press coding of news releases and media accounts of CEO departures, along with data on CEO age and continued affiliation with the firm, to determine whether a particular CEO left voluntarily. They merged the CEO data with large-scale databases such as ExecuComp and BoardEx. The sample covers large, publicly traded firms between 2000 and 2014.

“The results of this study point to the extra pressure and scrutiny directed at women in senior leadership positions relative to their male counterparts,” Gupta said. “This is problematic because women face difficult barriers and obstacles in breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling, but they also seem to continue to face additional challenges even after reaching the top of the corporate hierarchy.”

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.

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