What happens in the C-Suite after women break the glass ceiling?

[Guest post by Middlesex University colleague Dr Bianca Stumbitz. In this post Bianca reports on a seminar she organized on behalf of Middlesex University's Gender & Diversity cluster.]

In March 2021, we were very excited to host a seminar by Professor Corinne Post from Lehigh University, Pennsylvania in the US. Corinne’s research addresses diversity in career trajectories and management, including women in top management teams. In her presentation, we found out what happens to top management teams after women have made it all the way to the top. Corinne's hand-outs can be downloaded here. A recording of her presentation is below.

Although we would have much preferred to welcome Corinne in person on our London campus, a key advantage of virtual events is that geographical distance is no barrier, so that her talk attracted attendees from across Middlesex University and the UK, the CYGNA network, and from as far as Brazil and the US. Corinne’s presentation sparked a lively discussion, provided plenty of food for thought and certainly left the audience hungry for more. Hopefully in person next time!

Abstract

An impressive body of work suggests that firms with more women at senior ranks do better: they are more profitable, more socially responsible, safer for customers, and have more success innovating.

Yet, despite all of these studies, we know little about what actually happens on top management teams after women are appointed to the C-Suite. One reason for this, is that most studies take a snapshot view of a set of firms and compare them with one another at a given point in time. By doing so, they can’t actually tell what changes within firms as more women join.

We set out to examine how firms change, after female break into its highest ranks. To do so requires dynamic studies that investigate what happens with the firm’s long run strategies year after year, when female executives enter TMTs. And this is exactly what we did: we observe over a period of 13 years what changes within firms, when women join the C-Suite.

We find evidence that adding female executives to (male dominated) TMTs gradually shifts how firms renew their knowledge from a knowledge-buying strategy (M&As) towards a knowledge-building strategy (investments in R&D). In other words, we find that how a firm acquires knowledge after women join the TMT shifts away from a more masculine, “agentic” buying approach to a more feminine, “communal,” internal development, building way.

[Based on paper co-authored with Boris Lokshin (Maastricht) and Christophe Boone (Antwerp), forthcoming at Academy of Management Journal.]

Corinne's bio

Professor Corinne Post is C. Scott Hartz ’68 Term Professor in and Chair of the Department of Management, College of Business at Lehigh University. She previously taught at the Lubin School of Business – Pace University. Professor Post earned her B.S. in Organization Management and Masters in International Management from HEC, University of Geneva (Switzerland) and HEC, University of Lausanne, (Switzerland) respectively. She received her Ph.D. in Organization Management from Rutgers University, Rutgers Business School – Newark and New Brunswick (New Jersey, USA). Prior to joining academia, she was an IT analyst and human resource specialist for Accenture.

Professor Post’s research addresses questions related to diversity and diversity management, notably on women and boards and in top management teams but also around: diversity as enabler or impediment to group and organizational performance; mechanisms underlying gender and racial/ethnic differences in career trajectories and outcomes; and gender and leadership. Her work is published in leading academic journals including Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Management, Organization Science, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Human Relations, and Journal of Business Ethics. Professor Post served as Associate Editor of Journal of Management Studies (2016-2020) and is currently Editorial Board Member for Journal of Business Ethics and Career Development International. She is also Consulting Editor and on the Strategic Advisory Committee for Journal of Management Studies.

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