Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 153, Issue 2, pp 291–316 | Cite as

Women’s Leadership and Firm Performance: Family Versus Nonfamily Firms

  • Mehdi NekhiliEmail author
  • Héla Chakroun
  • Tawhid Chtioui


We evaluate the relationship between the appointment of women to CEO or Chair positions and firm performance, and shed light on the differences between family and nonfamily firms. By using a propensity score matching approach on a sample of 394 French firms over the period 2001–2010, we find major discordances between women’s leadership style and family business expectations relative to firm performance, as measured by return on assets and Tobin’s q. Notably, our results support the conjecture that family firms, which are more conducive to transformational leadership, offer women a more appropriate climate for exercising the function of Chair than that of CEO. In contrast, women CEOs perform better in nonfamily firms. Our findings move away from the predominant focus on barriers and stereotypes images about the female leadership and support the contingency theory of leadership, which states that the effectiveness of a leadership style depends on the organization and culture in which leaders operate, and on task-related positions


Woman leadership Family firms Transformational leadership Contingency theory of leadership Performance Propensity score matching 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mehdi Nekhili
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Héla Chakroun
    • 3
  • Tawhid Chtioui
    • 4
  1. 1.Maine University (GAINS-ARGUMANS)Le MansFrance
  2. 2.ICD International Business SchoolParisFrance
  3. 3.Institute of Higher Business StudiesUniversity of SfaxSfaxTunisia
  4. 4.EM Lyon Business SchoolCasablancaMorocco

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