Hiring Female CEOs Changes How Companies Talk About Women
The underrepresentation of women at the top of corporate America is a persistent and exasperating problem. Women currently hold 32 CEO positions in S&P 500 companies — slightly more than 6% of the total.
“We have all this knowledge on stereotypes and the biases and challenges people face, but there’s still so little progress in actually diversifying the leaders of the largest companies in the country,” says M. Asher Lawson, an assistant professor of decision sciences at INSEAD.
Women trying to climb the corporate ladder often run up against insidious gender stereotypes that associate men — but not women — with highly valued leadership traits of agency and achievement. And when women do display stereotypically “male” leadership traits like assertiveness and decisiveness, they are often seen as less warm and likable.
To answer this question, Lawson teamed up with Ashley Martin, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Along with Imrul Huda of the University of Chicago and Sandra Matz of Columbia University, they parsed the text of 43,000 documents produced by 39 S&P 500 companies between 2009 and 2018 — more than 1.2 billion words. Among the firms that named female CEOs during that time were GM, Yahoo!, Oracle, IBM, Duke Energy, and General Dynamics.