Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 1111: What Prevents Female Executives 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: Exceptionally rich data from Sweden makes it possible to study the gender gap in executives’ career progression and to investigate its causes. In their forties, female executives are about one-half as likely to be large-company CEOs and about one-third less likely to be high earners than male executives. 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 male executives and are more often absent from work. These results suggest that aspiring women may not reach the executive site without trading off family life.

Keywords: CEOs; Compensation; Discrimination; Executives; Gender differences

JEL-codes: G34; J16; J24; J31

53 pages, First version: February 18, 2016. Revised: September 1, 2017.

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