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J Appl Psychol. 2018 Feb;103(2):228-236. doi: 10.1037/apl0000269. Epub 2017 Oct 9.

Do women CEOs face greater threat of shareholder activism compared to male CEOs? A role congruity perspective.

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Department of Management, The University of Alabama.
Department of Finance, Pennsylvania State University at Abington.
Department of Economics, Finance, and Legal Studies, The University of Alabama.
Department of Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate, University of Memphis.
Department of Management, University of Missouri.


We examine the glass cliff proposition that female CEOs receive more scrutiny than male CEOs, by investigating whether CEO gender is related to threats from activist investors in public firms. Activist investors are extraorganizational stakeholders who, when dissatisfied with some aspect of the way the firm is being managed, seek to change the strategy or operations of the firm. Although some have argued that women will be viewed more favorably than men in top leadership positions (so-called "female leadership" advantage logic), we build on role congruity theory to hypothesize that female CEOs are significantly more likely than male CEOs to come under threat from activist investors. Results support our predictions, suggesting that female CEOs may face additional challenges not faced by male CEOs. Practical implications and directions for future research are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record.

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