November 2023

IZA DP No. 16580: Catalyzing Gender Equality: Foreign MNC Subsidiaries as Agents of Change in Mitigating Wage Discrimination against Women

Wage discrimination against women remains a major obstacle to fair economic opportunities for women and a grand challenge constraining economic growth in many countries. Existing research is ambivalent about whether foreign MNC subsidiaries as employers of women offer a solution to this grand challenge. On the one hand, foreign MNC subsidiaries can pay higher wages to women because they are outsiders to the host country and can deviate from social norms that disadvantage women. On the other hand, they suffer from the liabilities of foreignness that limit their attractiveness as employers for women relative to domestic firms. We theorize that the latter factor becomes less important as the level of wage discrimination against women by domestic employers increases, so that foreign MNC subsidiaries become more attractive employers when women change jobs. We isolate two boundary conditions for this effect based on (a) whether women can observe wage premiums at foreign MNC subsidiaries in local labor markets and (b) when foreign MNC subsidiaries deviate from social norms in the labor market by relying more on female top managers than domestic employers. We test and support these hypotheses for 123,343 female professionals/managers who changed jobs in Denmark between 2000 and 2016.