Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Female CEOs more likely to be ousted than males, Clemson study shows


Women occupying the C-suite are prone to living a far more precarious existence than men, according to a study conducted by a Clemson University researcher in the College of Business.

Minxing Sun, finance professor
Minxing Sun

Minxing Sun, a clinical assistant professor of finance, said a study which examined the dismissals of chief executive officers in public companies found that females holding those positions were 45 percent more likely to be fired than their male counterparts.

“You’re Fired! Gender Disparities in CEO Dismissal,” analyzed a large data set of CEO departures in public companies from 2000-2014. The study examined news reports of CEOs leaving their companies either voluntarily or being forced out. Of the 640 dismissals, researchers also looked at the time between the announcement and the departure date, to help differentiate between a dismissal and a departure of their own volition.

“Because many CEOs won’t admit to being fired and few companies admit to firing them, it’s difficult to determine the reason an executive leaves a company. It could be they were forced out, or there were philosophical differences,” Sun said. “We considered CEOs below the age of 60 as being dismissed unless the press reported other reasons for a departure, such as death, poor health, accepting another position or retirement, if it was reported six months in advance.”

Sun said the research looked at the percentage of male and female dismissals at companies performing well, and at those not performing well.

“If the company was performing poorly, the dismissal rates for males and females were quite similar, she said. “However, of companies that were performing favorably, females were 61.5 percent more likely to be dismissed than their male counterparts.”

Sun said the research suggests that gender stereotypes may result in women being pushed out of their leadership roles even after they reach the highest position in the company. Females comprise about 3 percent of CEO positions held in the U.S.

“We hope our research will draw attention to the gendered nature of CEO dismissals and generate an interest in understanding the drivers behind why there is a higher dismissal rate among female CEOs,” Sun added. “From a practical standpoint, our research suggests there is a substantive hidden bias in CEO dismissals, which should be relevant to company officials involved in improving governance practices.”

Sun was joined in the research by Vishal Gupta, University of Alabama; Sandra Mortal, University of Alabama; Sabatino Silveri, University of Memphis and Daniel Turban, University of Missouri.

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