How Firm Performance Impacts Females' Leadership Opportunities in Denmark: A Study of Female CEO Appointments and Length of Tenure Compared to Male CEOs Within Both Family and Non-family Firms in Denmark

Anne Katrine Kiær Troelsen & Eline Leandra Buchner

Student thesis: Master thesis


This paper examines how firm performance impacts the likelihood of female CEO appointment and whether female CEOs are more likely to face turnover compared to male CEOs within both family and non-family firms in Denmark. We demonstrate that a significantly higher share of females is appointed as CEO in family firms compared to non-family firms. In non-family firms, female CEOs are more likely to be appointed to their role in firms experiencing a decline in profitability, hence the existence of a ‘glass cliff’. The data warrants further inquiry into nonfamily firms regarding tenure, as findings on the difference in female and male CEO tenure are inconclusive. Overall, CEOs’ tenure is longer in family firms compared to non-family firms, which might be partly explained by a significantly larger share of CEOs in family firms leaving office after the legal retirement age. We discuss the implications for the family firm literature and find that half of females appointed CEO in family firms are either the wife of an owner or the daughter of the departing CEO. Specifically, 9% of CEO transitions from males to females are from a father to a daughter whereas 18% are from a father to a son. The data thus suggests that the conditions under which females are promoted to CEO in Denmark differ from the conditions under which men are promoted to CEO, due to financial performance in non-family firms and familial ties in family firms. However, since financial performance does not influence the likelihood of female CEOs to be replaced by male CEOs and it cannot be shown that female CEOs are more likely to face turnover, female CEOs get to prove their leadership capabilities just as male CEOs post-appointment. These findings contribute to the discourse on how to reach gender equality as they suggest that to improve gender equality among CEOs in Denmark, focus should be on the conditions under which females are appointed CEO rather than their leadership capabilities. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper to examine the glass cliff and gender differences in tenure differing between family and non-family firms. Moreover, this is the first paper of its kind to study all firms in a country, in this case Denmark. Finally, recommendations are made for future research, where we call for investigations into why gender is a factor related to performance in the appointment of CEOs in non-family firms, and for this study to be replicated in other countries

EducationsMSc in Finance and Strategic Management, (Graduate Programme) Final ThesisMSc in Applied Economics and Finance, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages168
SupervisorsKasper Meisner Nielsen