November 2015

IZA DP No. 9537: Women at the Top in Developing Countries: Evidence from Firm-Level Data

This paper uses worldwide firm-level data to scrutinize the governance factors that favor gender diversity in leadership positions. Our results reveal that the gender of the dominant shareholder is key. The chief executive of firms with a female dominant shareholder has a significantly higher probability of being a woman than in other firms. The effect is even more pronounced when the female shareholder holds a higher share of the capital and when the firm is foreign-owned. Our results suggest that "old boys' club" ownership structures are a major impediment to the empowerment of female talent in developing countries.