Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 1111: What Prevents Women from Reaching the Top?

Matti Keluoharju (), Samuli Knüpfer () and Joacim Tåg ()
Additional contact information
Matti Keluoharju: Aalto University School of Business, Postal: Harvard Business School, CEPR and Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)
Samuli Knüpfer: BI Norwegian Business School, Postal: ,CEPR and Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)
Joacim Tåg: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: P.O. Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: We use rich data on all business, economics, and engineering graduates in Sweden to study the lack of women among CEOs. A comprehensive battery of graduates’ characteristics explains 40% of the gender gaps in CEO appointments, and 60% among graduates with children. The explanatory power mostly comes from absences and unemployment, which are about twice as likely for women as men. These gender differences increase following childbirth, and they persist in the long run. We present and discuss potential explanations to the explained and remaining gaps. Although the large unexplained share makes it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for the gender gap in CEO appointments, the large contribution of labor market attachment to the explained share suggests work-family trade-offs are an important part of the story.

Keywords: CEOs; Gender gap; Labor market attachment; Family; Qualifications

JEL-codes: G34; J16; J24; J31

Language: English

46 pages, First version: February 18, 2016. Revised: February 9, 2022. Earlier revisions: September 1, 2017, March 12, 2018, March 7, 2019, February 8, 2022.

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