An Investigation into the Determinants and Moderators of Women Attaining and Retaining CEO Positions

UoM administered thesis: Doctor of Business Administration

  • Authors:
  • Dana Goldblatt


This thesis explores gender-related barriers in CEO successions. Only 4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female despite the fact that women have held the majority of college degrees in the US since the late 1990's and now comprise almost half of the workforce and the majority of managerial positions. Their representation is low even in comparison to the other two top management positions from which CEOs are typically sourced. It is less than one-third of the percentage of both female executive officers (15%) and board directors (17%). A holistic and qualitative research approach was utilized. Data were gathered on societal, individual and organizational factors through one-on-one, semi-structured interviews with board directors, executive search consultants and female CEOs, and analyzed using computer-assisted coding software. This thesis challenges the perception that women's individual barriers are the main reason why there are so few female CEOs. While all three types of barriers were found, organizational barriers appear to be the most important. The convergence of predominately male board directors, CEOs and top executive search consultants with informal, subjective, secretive and disparate talent management and CEO successions programs effectively results in the CEO position being a better fit for men than women. While moderating factors were beneficial to the women who have become CEOs, many factors were found for why they cannot be relied upon to greatly increase the number of female CEOs. A deliberate and comprehensive effort by society, individuals and organizations is required.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2017