Pay Inequality and Gender Dynamics in Top Executive Positions

Mario Daniele Amore*, Orsola Garofalo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Research Question/Issue: Contributing to ongoing debates on the determinants of diversity at the helm of companies, we investigate the relationship between executives’ gender and pay inequality within the top executive team.
Research Findings/Insights: Using a panel data set of US listed firms, we find that a greater inequality in executive pay is positively associated with the exit of female executives from the firm’s top executive team. This effect is economically larger when the starting level of female representation in the executive team is low, when the firm uses more variable compensation to reward executives, and when the firm operates in geographic areas featuring stronger aversion toward income inequality.
Theoretical/Academic Implications: Our study expands existing knowledge on the organizational and external factors promoting gender diversity at the top of companies. While this literature has widely analyzed women’s entry into corporate positions, exit has been largely neglected. Our study fills this gap by documenting significant gender differences in the relationship between executives’ pay inequality and exit rates from the top executive team. In so doing, we connect the literatures on gender diversity and executive pay distribution, which have developed in a rather independent manner.
Practitioner/Policy Implications: Drawing on insights from corporate governance and behavioral economics, this study offers novel evidence to policy-makers interested in addressing the under-explored challenges associated with the retention of women in corporate positions and their upward mobility within the corporate hierarchy. Moreover, the contextual variations behind our main finding suggest that cultural values and norms may play a key role in shaping the effectiveness of public policies aimed at increasing diversity in corporate governance positions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCorporate Governance
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)526-540
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: 12. May 2021.


  • Gender
  • Executives
  • Exit
  • Pay inequality

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