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There Aren't Many Female CEOs in America, Yet They're Much More Likely to Get Fired Than Male Counterparts

If you’re a female CEO, congratulations. You’ve already beaten the odds just by showing up to work each morning since male execs still outnumber females by a staggering ratio in America. But it turns out that even though you’re the head of your company, and you’re doing a great job, you are still more likely to get fired than a man in your position would be.

A new study out of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa shows that female CEOs are 45 percent more likely to be dismissed than their male counterparts. 

"Dismissing the CEO is usually viewed as evidence of good corporate governance as it suggests that the board is taking its monitoring role seriously, however our research reveals there are invisible, but serious, gender biases in how the board evaluates CEOs and its decision to retain or fire particular CEOs," said Dr. Sandra Mortal, co-author and associate professor at the University of Alabama's Culverhouse College of Business.

The study came to that conclusion after using press coding of news releases about CEO departures along with other data points to determine whether the individual left the company willingly. They then looked at this data along with large-scale databases such as ExecuComp and BoardEx.

That means just because a successful businesswoman has broken through the glass ceiling doesn't mean she's immune to slipping through the cracks later on. Many female CEOs face additional pressure to succeed and scrutiny of their leadership than male counterparts. And those unfair expectations could lead to the imbalance in firings.

"The results of this study point to the extra pressure and scrutiny directed at women in senior leadership positions relative to their male counterparts," explained Dr. Vishal Gupta -an associate professor who also teaches at UA Culverhouse.

"This is problematic because women face difficult barriers and obstacles in breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling, but they also seem to continue to face additional challenges even after reaching the top of the corporate hierarchy," Gupta added.

The study did not look at whether the boards of these big companies were aware of this gendered trend in firing CEOs, though, so it could be something that a little training could fix.

Either way, if you're a female exec, the odds aren’t in your favour—even at the very top of the corporate ladder.


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