Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Klein

Second Advisor

Dr. Martin Boileau

Third Advisor

Dr. Heather Demarest



This paper examines whether or not the gender makeup of an executive board impacts the likelihood of a firm having a female CEO. It is true that female CEO representation has increased over time, however, in publicly traded companies they are still an occupational minority. Only 5% of Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO. Recent studies have shown that female executives are under-represented and under-compensated. This paper uses EXECUCOMP, COMPUSTAT, and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) data from 1997 to 2017 to analyze the effect of executive and firm characteristics on the probability of having a female CEO. The number of unique firms within the sample is 2,678. We find that a 1 percentage point increase in the fraction of the executive board that is female leads to 0.4 percentage point increase in the likelihood of having a female CEO, holding all else constant. Firms with larger and more independent boards are less likely to hire a female CEO. However, firms seem to perform similarly regardless of the gender of their CEO.