We investigate whether the gender of top executives influences a firm’s reaction to competitive pressures. Our empirical approach is based on policy changes that varied the exposure of US banks to competition during the late 1990s. Results suggest that while banks with female executives experience significantly higher financial performance under low competition, they tend to underperform when competition increases. At the same time, we find that the presence of female leaders improves the capital stability of banks subject to greater competition. Overall, our study highlights strong interactions between executive gender and market structures in the determination of business outcomes.