Burnt by the Spotlight: How Leadership Endorsements Impact the Longevity of Female Leaders

Women entering leadership positions such as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) role face barriers in the form of pervasive stereotypic expectations by which stakeholders implicitly evaluate their effectiveness. In this study, we examine the effects that a widely used organizational practice—leadership endorsements in the CEO succession announcement—has on female CEOs’ longevity in the CEO role. In particular, we theorize that the leadership endorsements of incoming female CEOs that highlight their past achievements and competence violate stakeholders’ prescriptive stereotypes, thereby increasing the likelihood of stakeholders viewing the female leaders through a stereotypical lens. Therefore, though well intentioned, leadership endorsements in female CEOs’ succession announcements foment a stereotype threat situation that is likely to have long-term negative consequences for female leaders. We investigate and find support for this relationship using archival data for a sample of 91 female CEO successions among S&P 1500 and Fortune 500 firms between 1995 and 2012. Several post hoc analyses, including in-depth interviews with 31 female executives, further strengthen our findings and show that this effect does not occur among male CEO succession events. We also find that two key facets of the succession context work to ameliorate this negative relationship: the insider status of the female CEO and the number of female executives at the focal firm. Our findings suggest that ostensibly gender-neutral practices can have unintended negative consequences for female leaders. We conclude with a discussion of the theoretical and practical implications of our findings.

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Work Title Burnt by the Spotlight: How Leadership Endorsements Impact the Longevity of Female Leaders
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Open Access
Creators
  1. P. Dwivedi
  2. Vilmos F Misangyi
  3. A Joshi
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
Publisher
  1. Journal of Applied Psychology
Publication Date February 22, 2021
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
  1. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000871
Deposited July 07, 2021

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