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
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA), 2012 Australian Census of Women in Leadership, www.eowa.gov.au.
The ‘New Economic Regulations (NER)’ Act of May 15, 2001 recommended rules for corporate objectives, structure, including board composition and committee structure, roles of directors and shareholders in control transactions, and tender offers.
Our sample includes companies that existed on December 1, 2010 and excludes those that existed at any prior year during our sample period but that were deleted.
The standard GMM considers only the first difference of each variable in the regressions, while the lagged levels of explanatory variables are used as instruments. Blundell and Bond (1998) introduce the levels equation in the estimation procedure to produce a system GMM of two equations involving both the levels equation itself and the first-differenced equation.
Matching without replacement means that the same family firm can be matched to only one nonfamily firm.
As an alternative profitability measure, we use the return on equity defined as the ratio of net income to stockholders’ equity. The results using return on equity are quite similar to those using return on assets.
We find a few cases in family firms where a woman holds both CEO and board Chair positions (0.78 %), and no cases are observed for nonfamily firms. The case of woman CEO duality therefore cannot be considered.
As in the first matching, we use a caliper distance of 3 % without replacement.
Adams, R. B., & Ferreira, D. (2009). Women in the boardroom and their impact on governance and performance. Journal of Financial Economics, 94(2), 291–309.
Adams, S. M., Gupta, A., & Leeth, J. (2008). Are female executives over-represented in precarious leadership positions? British Journal of Management, 16(2), 81–90.
Amabile, T. M., Schatzel, E. A., Moneta, G. B., & Kramer, S. J. (2004). Leader behaviors and the work environment for creativity: Perceived leader support. The Leadership Quarterly, 15(1), 5–32.
Anderson, R. C., & Reeb, D. M. (2003). Founding-family ownership and firm performance: Evidence from the S&P 300. Journal of Finance, 58(3), 1301–1328.
Anderson, R. C., & Reeb, D. M. (2004). Board composition: Balancing family influence in S&P 500 firms. Administrative Science Quarterly, 49(2), 209–237.
Avolio, B. J. (1999). Full leadership development: Building the vital forces in organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Baixauli-Soler, J. S., Belda-Ruiz, M., & Sanchez-Marin, G. (2015). Executive stock options, gender diversity in the top management team, and firm risk taking. Journal of Business Research, 68(2), 451–463.
Baliga, B. R., Moyer, R. C., & Rao, R. S. (1996). CEO duality and firm performance: What’s the fuss? Strategic Management Journal, 17(1), 41–53.
Bammens, Y., Voordeckers, W., & Van Gils, A. (2011). Boards of directors in family businesses: A literature review and research agenda. International Journal of Management Reviews, 13(2), 134–152.
Bark, A. S. H., Escartín, J., Schuh, S. C., & van Dick, R. (2015). Who leads more and why? A mediation model from gender to leadership role occupancy. Journal of Business Ethics, 45, 1–11. doi:10.1007/s10551-015-2642-0.
Bass, B. M. (1985). Leadership and performance beyond expectations. New York: Free Press, Collier Macmillan.
Bass, B. M. (1999). Two decades of research and development in transformational leadership. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 8(1), 9–32.
Bass, B. M., & Avolio, B. J. (1993). Transformational leadership and organizational culture. Public Administration Quarterly, 17(1), 112–121.
Bass, B. M., Avolio, B. J., & Atwater, L. (1996). The transformational and transactional leadership of men and women. Applied Psychology, 45(1), 5–34.
Bass, B. M., Avolio, B. J., Jung, D. I., & Berson, Y. (2003). Predicting unit performance by assessing transformational and transactional leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(2), 207–218.
Beehr, T. A., Dresler, J. A., & Faulkner, S. (1997). Working in small family businesses: Empirical comparisons to non-family businesses. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 18(3), 297–312.
Bennedsen, M., Nielsen, K. M., Perez-Gonzalez, F., & Wolfenzon, D. (2007). Inside the family firm: The role of families in succession decisions and performance. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 122(2), 647–691.
Bertrand, M., & Schoar, A. (2006). The role of family in family firms. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20(2), 73–96.
Blundell, R., & Bond, S. (1998). Initial conditions and moment restrictions in dynamic panel data models. Journal of Econometrics, 87(1), 115–143.
Bosse, D. A., & Taylor, P. L. (2012). The second glass ceiling impedes women entrepreneurs. The Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, 17(1), 52–68.
Boubaker, S., & Labégorre, F. (2008). Ownership structure, corporate governance and analyst following: A study of French listed firms. Journal of Banking & Finance, 32(6), 961–976.
Braun, M., & Sharma, A. (2007). Should the CEO also be Chair of the board? An empirical examination of family-controlled public firms. Family Business Review, 20(2), 111–126.
Burkart, M., Gromb, D., & Panunzi, F. (1997). Large shareholders, monitoring, and the value of the firm. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112(3), 693–728.
Burkart, M., Panunzi, F., & Shleifer, A. (2003). Family firms. Journal of Finance, 58(5), 2167–2202.
Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row.
Cadbury, A. (1992). Report of the committee on the financial aspects of corporate governance. Gee, London.
Catalyst. (2012). Women CEOs of the fortune 1000. Retrieved June 2012 from http://www.catalyst.org/publication/271/women-ceos-of-thefortune-1000.
Corbetta, G., & Salvato, C. A. (2004). The board of directors in family firms: One size fits all? Family Business Review, 17(2), 119–134.
Curimbaba, F. (2002). The dynamics of women’s roles as family business managers. Family Business Review, 15(3), 239–252.
Daily, C. M., Certo, T., & Dalton, D. R. (1999). A decade of corporate women: Some progress in the boardroom, none in the executive suite. Strategic Management Journal, 20(1), 93–99.
Daily, C. M., & Dalton, D. R. (1997). CEO and board chair roles held jointly or separately: Much ado about nothing? The Academy of Management Executive, 11(3), 11–20.
Daily, C. M., Dalton, D. R., & Cannella, A. A. (2003). Corporate governance: Decades of dialogue and data. Academy of Management Review, 28(3), 371–382.
Daily, C. M., & Dollinger, M. J. (1992). An empirical examination of ownership structure in family and professionally managed firms. Family Business Review, 5(2), 117–136.
Dalton, D. R., Daily, C. M., Ellstrand, A. E., & Johnson, J. L. (1998). Meta-analytic reviews of board composition leadership structure and financial performance. Strategic Management Journal, 19(3), 269–290.
de Luque, M. S., Washburn, N. T., Waldman, D. A., & House, R. J. (2008). Unrequited profit: How stakeholder and economic values relate to subordinates’ perceptions of leadership and firm performance. Administrative Science Quarterly, 53(4), 626–654.
Dezsö, C. L., & Ross, D. G. (2012). Does female representation in top management improve firm performance? A panel data investigation. Strategic Management Journal, 33(9), 1072–1089.
Druskat, V. U. (1994). Gender and leadership style: Transformational and transactional leadership in the Roman Catholic Church. The Leadership Quarterly, 5(2), 99–119.
Duh, M., Belak, J., & Milfelner, B. (2010). Core values, culture and ethical climate as constitutional elements of ethical behaviour: Exploring differences between family and nonfamily enterprises. Journal of Business Ethics, 97(3), 473–489.
Dyer, W. G. (2006). Examining the “family effect” on firm performance. Family Business Review, 19(4), 253–273.
Eagly, A. H., & Carli, L. L. (2003). The female leadership advantage: An evaluation of the evidence. The Leadership Quarterly, 14(6), 807–834.
Eagly, A. H., & Carli, L. L. (2007). Women and the labyrinth of leadership. Harvard Business Review, 85(9), 63–71.
Eagly, A. H., Johannesen-Schmidt, M. C., & Van Engen, M. L. (2003). Transformational, transactional, and laissez-faire leadership styles: A meta-analysis comparing women and men. Psychological Bulletin, 129(4), 569–591.
Eagly, A. H., & Karau, S. J. (2002). Role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders. Psychological Review, 109(3), 573–598.
Eagly, A. H., Karau, S. J., & Makhijani, M. G. (1995). Gender and the effectiveness of leaders: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 117(1), 125–145.
Faccio, M., & Lang, L. H. P. (2002). The ultimate ownership of Western European corporations. Journal of Financial Economics, 65(3), 365–395.
Fama, E. F., & Jensen, M. C. (1983). Agency problems and residual claims. Journal of Law and Economics, 26(2), 327–349.
Fiedler, F. E. (1964). A contingency model of leadership effectiveness. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 1, 149–190.
Fiedler, F. E., & Chemers, M. M. (1967). A theory of leadership effectiveness. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Finland Chamber of Commerce. (2014). Promoting women directors and executives. Women leaders program.
Francoeur, C., Labelle, R., & Sinclair-Desgagné, B. (2008). Gender diversity in corporate governance and top management and financial performance. Journal of Business Ethics, 81(1), 83–95.
Gabrielsson, J., & Huse, M. (2004). Context, behavior, and evolution: Challenges in research on boards and governance. International Studies of Management and Organizations, 34(2), 11–36.
Gabrielsson, J., & Huse, M. (2005). Outside directors in SME boards: A call for theoretical reflections. Corporate Board: Role, Duties and Composition, 1(1), 28–37.
Gabrielsson, J., Huse, M., & Minichilli, A. (2007). Understanding the leadership role of the board Chairperson through a team production approach. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 3(1), 21–39.
Gómez-Mejía, L. R., Cruz, C., Berrone, P., & De Castro, J. (2011). The bind that ties: Socioemotional wealth preservation in family firms. The Academy of Management Annals, 5(1), 653–707.
Gómez-Mejía, L. R., Haynes, K. T., Núñez-Nickel, M., Jacobson, K. J., & Moyano-Fuentes, J. (2007). Socioemotional wealth and business risks in family-controlled firms: Evidence from Spanish olive oil mills. Administrative Science Quarterly, 52(1), 106–137.
Gomez-Mejia, L. R., Larraza-Kintana, M., & Makri, M. (2003). The determinants of executive compensation in family-controlled public corporations. Academy of Management Journal, 46(2), 226–237.
Gomez-Mejia, L. R., Makri, M., & Kintana, M. L. (2010). Diversification decisions in family-controlled firms. Journal of Management Studies, 47(2), 223–252.
Gomez-Mejia, L. R., Nunez-Nickel, M., & Gutierrez, I. (2001). The role of family ties in agency contracts. Academy of Management Journal, 44(1), 81–95.
Gul, F. A., Srinidhi, B., & Ng, A. C. (2011). Does board gender diversity improve the informativeness of stock prices? Journal of Accounting and Economics, 51(3), 314–338.
Hambrick, D. C., van Werder, A. V., & Zajac, E. J. (2008). New directions in corporate governance research. Organization Science, 19(3), 381–385.
Hart, S. L., & Quinn, R. E. (1993). Roles executives play: CEOs, behavioral complexity, and firm performance. Human Relations, 46(5), 543–574.
Hood, J. N. (2003). The relationship of leadership style and CEO values to ethical practices in organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 43(4), 263–273.
House, R. J., & Aditya, R. N. (1997). The social scientific study of leadership: Quo vadis? Journal of Management, 23(3), 409–473.
Huang, J., & Kisgen, D. (2013). Gender and corporate finance: Are male executives overconfident relative to female executives? Journal of Financial Economics, 108(3), 822–839.
Huse, M. (2005). Accountability and creating accountability: A framework for exploring behavioural perspectives of corporate governance. British Journal of Management, 16(1), 65–79.
Huse, M. (2007). Boards, governance and value creation: The human side of corporate governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Huse, M., Hoskisson, R., Zattoni, A., & Viganò, R. (2011). New perspectives on board research: Changing the research agenda. Journal of Management and Governance, 15(1), 5–28.
Huse, M., & Solberg, A. G. (2006). Gender-related boardroom dynamics: How Scandinavian women make and can make contributions on corporate boards. Women in Management Review, 21(2), 113–130.
Isidro, H., & Sobral, M. (2015). The effects of women on corporate boards on firm value, financial performance, and ethical and social compliance. Journal of Business Ethics, 132(1), 1–19.
Jorissen, A., Laveren, E., Martens, R., & Reheul, A. M. (2005). Real versus sample-based differences in comparative family business research. Family Business Review, 18(3), 229–246.
Kolev, G. I. (2012). Underperformance by female CEOs: A more powerful test. Economics Letters, 117(2), 436–440.
Kramer, V. W., Konrad, A. M., Erkut, S., & Hooper, M. J. (2006). Critical mass on corporate boards: Why three or more women enhance governance (pp. 2–4). Boston: Wellesley Centers for Women.
Krishnan, G. V., & Parsons, L. M. (2008). Getting to the bottom line: An exploration of gender and earnings quality. Journal of Business Ethics, 78(1–2), 65–76.
La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., & Shleifer, A. (1999). Corporate ownership around the world. Journal of Finance, 54(2), 471–517.
La Porta, R., Lopez-de-Silanes, F., Shleifer, A., & Vishny, R. W. (2000). Investor protection and corporate governance. Journal of Financial Economics, 58(1–2), 3–27.
Larcker, D. F., & Rusticus, T. O. (2010). On the use of instrumental variables in accounting research. Journal of Accounting and Economics, 49(3), 186–205.
Leblanc, R. (2005). Assessing board leadership. Corporate Governance: An International Review, 13(5), 654–666.
Lee, P. M., & James, E. H. (2006). She-E-Os: Gender effects and stock price reactions to the announcements of top executive appointments. Strategic Management Journal, 28(3), 227–241.
Lester, R. H., & Cannella, A. A. (2006). Interorganizational familiness: How family firms use interlocking directorates to build community-level social capital. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 30(6), 755–775.
Levrau, A., & Van den Berghe, L. (2013). Perspectives on the decision-making style of the board Chair. International Journal of Disclosure and Governance, 10(2), 105–121.
Ling, Y. A. N., Simsek, Z., Lubatkin, M. H., & Veiga, J. F. (2008). Transformational leadership’s role in promoting corporate entrepreneurship: Examining the CEO-TMT interface. Academy of Management Journal, 51(3), 557–576.
Machold, S., Huse, M., Minichilli, A., & Nordqvist, M. (2011). Board leadership and strategy involvement in small firms: A team production approach. Corporate Governance: An International Review, 19(4), 368–383.
Makni, R., Francoeur, C., & Bellavance, F. (2009). Causality between corporate social performance and financial performance: Evidence from Canadian firms. Journal of Business Ethics, 89(3), 409–422.
Martin, A. D., Nishikawa, T., & Williams, M. A. (2009). CEO gender: Effects on valuation and risk. Quarterly Journal of Finance and Accounting, 48(3), 23–40.
Maury, B. (2006). Family ownership and firm performance: Evidence from Western European Corporations. Journal of Corporate Finance, 12(2), 321–341.
McConaughy, D. L. (2000). Family CEOs versus nonfamily CEOs in the family-controlled firm: An examination of the level and sensitivity of pay to performance. Family Business Review, 13(2), 121–131.
McConaughy, D. L., Walker, M. C., Henderson, G. V., Jr., & Mishra, C. S. (1998). Founding family controlled firms: efficiency and value. Review of Financial Economics, 7(1), 1–19.
McNulty, T., Pettigrew, A., Jobome, G., & Morris, C. (2011). The role, power and influence of company Chairs. Journal of Management and Governance, 15(1), 91–121.
Miller, D., & Le Breton-Miller, I. (2006). Family governance and firm performance: Agency, stewardship, and capabilities. Family Business Review, 19(1), 73–87.
Miller, D., Le Breton-Miller, I., Lester, R. H., & Cannella, A. A. (2007). Are family firms really superior performers? Journal of Corporate Finance, 13(5), 829–858.
Miller, D., Le Breton-Miller, I., & Scholnick, B. (2008). Stewardship vs. stagnation: An empirical comparison of small family and non-family businesses. Journal of Management Studies, 45(1), 51–78.
Milliken, F. J., & Martins, L. (1996). Searching for common threads: Understanding the multiple effects of diversity in organizational groups. Academy of Management Review, 21(2), 402–433.
Nekhili, M., & Cherif, M. (2011). Related parties transactions and firm’s market value: The French case. Review of Accounting and Finance, 10(3), 291–315.
Nekhili, M., & Gatfaoui, H. (2013). Are demographic attributes and firm characteristics drivers of gender diversity? Investigating women’s positions on French boards of directors. Journal of Business Ethics, 188(2), 227–249.
Ng, E. S., & Sears, G. J. (2012). CEO leadership styles and the implementation of organizational diversity practices: Moderating effects of social values and age. Journal of Business Ethics, 105(1), 41–52.
Nielsen, S., & Huse, M. (2010). The contribution of women on boards of directors: Going beyond the surface. Corporate Governance: An International Review, 18(2), 136–148.
Oakley, J. D. (2000). Gender-based barriers to senior management positions: Understanding the scarcity of female CEO“s”. Journal of Business Ethics, 27(4), 321–334.
Palvia, A., Vähämaa, E., & Vähämaa, S. (2015). Are female CEOs and Chairwomen more conservative and risk averse? Evidence from the banking industry during the financial crisis. Journal of Business Ethics, 131(3), 577–594.
Parrino, R., Sias, R. W., & Starks, L. T. (2003). Voting with their feet: Institutional ownership changes around forced CEO turnover. Journal of Financial Economics, 68(1), 3–46.
Parrotta, P., & Smith, N. (2013). Female-led firms: Performance and risk attitudes. IZA Discussion Paper No. 7613.
Pearce, C. L., & Manz, C. C. (2005). The new silver bullets of leadership: The importance of self- and shared leadership in knowledge work. Organizational Dynamics, 34(2), 130–140.
Pearce, J. A., & Zahra, S. A. (1992). Board composition from a strategic contingency perspective. Journal of Management Studies, 29(4), 411–438.
Peni, E. (2014). CEO and Chairperson characteristics and firm performance. Journal of Management and Governance, 18(1), 185–205.
Pettigrew, A., & McNulty, T. (1998). Sources and uses of power in the boardroom. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 7(2), 197–214.
Roberts, J., McNulty, T., & Stiles, P. (2005). Beyond agency conceptions of the work of the non-executive director: Creating accountability in the boardroom. British Journal of Management, 16(1), 5–26.
Roodman, D. (2009). How to do xtabond2: An introduction to difference and system gmm in stata. Stata Journal, 9(1), 86–36.
Rosenbaum, P. R., & Rubin, D. B. (1983). The central role of the propensity score in observational studies for causal effects. Biometrika, 70(1), 41–55.
Rosener, J. B. (1990). How women lead. Harvard Business Review, 68(6), 119–125.
Ryan, M. K., & Haslam, S. A. (2009). Glass cliffs are not so easily scaled: On the precariousness of female CEOs’ positions. British Journal of Management, 20(1), 13–16.
Schulze, W. S., Lubatkin, M. H., Dino, R. N., & Buchholtz, A. K. (2001). Agency relationships in family firms: Theory and evidence. Organization Science, 12(2), 99–116.
Schwartz, M. A., & Barnes, L. B. (1991). Outside boards and family businesses. Family Business Review, 4(3), 269–285.
Smith, N., Smith, V., & Verner, M. (2006). Do women in top management affect firm performance? A panel study of 2500 Danish firms. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, 55(7), 569–593.
Sraer, D., & Thesmar, D. (2007). Performance and behaviour of family firms: Evidence from the French stock market. Journal of The European Economic Association, 5(4), 709–751.
Tannenbaum, R., & Schmidt, W. H. (1958). How to choose a leadership pattern. Harvard Business Review, 36(2), 95–101.
Torchia, M., Calabro, A., & Huse, M. (2011). Women directors on corporate boards: From tokenism to critical mass. Journal of Business Ethics, 102(2), 299–317.
Tsui, A. S., Wang, H., Xin, K. R., Zhang, L. H., & Fu, P. P. (2004). Let a thousand flowers bloom: Variation of leadership styles in Chinese Firms. Organization Dynamics, 33(1), 5–20.
Tsui, A. S., Zhang, Z. X., Wang, H., Xin, K. R., & Wu, J. B. (2006). Unpacking the relationship between CEO leadership behavior and organizational culture. The Leadership Quarterly, 17(2), 113–137.
Vafeas, N. (1999). Board meeting frequency and firm performance. Journal of Financial Economics, 53(1), 113–142.
Vallejo, M. C. (2008). Is the culture of family firms really different? A value-based model for its survival through generations. Journal of Business Ethics, 81(2), 261–279.
Vallejo, M. C. (2009). Analytical model of leadership in family firms under transformational theoretical approach: An exploratory study. Family Business Review, 22(2), 136–150.
Vandewaerde, M., Voordeckers, W., Lambrechts, F., & Bammens, Y. (2011). Board team leadership revisited: A conceptual model of shared leadership in the boardroom. Journal of Business Ethics, 104(3), 403–420.
Villalonga, B., & Amit, R. (2006). How do family ownership, control, and management affect firm value? Journal of Financial Economics, 80(2), 385–417.
Vroom, V. H., & Yetton, P. W. (1973). Leadership and decision-making. New York: Wiley.
Wang, M., & Kelan, E. (2013). The gender quota and female leadership: Effects of the Norwegian gender quota on board chairs and CEOs. Journal of Business Ethics, 117(3), 449–466.
Westphal, J. D. (1999). Collaboration in the boardroom: Behavioral and performance consequences of CEO-board social ties. Academy of Management Journal, 42(1), 7–24.
Wooldridge, J. M. (2002). Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Wu, J. B., Tsui, A. S., & Kinicki, A. J. (2010). Consequences of differentiated leadership in groups. Academy of Management Journal, 53(1), 90–106.
Zellweger, T. M., Eddleston, K. A., & Kellermanns, F. W. (2010). Exploring the concept of familiness: Introducing family firm identity. Journal of Family Business Strategy, 1(1), 54–63.
Zhang, X. A., Li, N., Ullrich, J., & van Dick, R. (2015). Getting everyone on board: The effect of differentiated transformational leadership by CEOs on top management team effectiveness and leader-rated firm performance. Journal of Management, 41(7), 1898–1933.
Zhu, W., Newman, A., Miao, Q., & Hooke, A. (2013). Revisiting the mediating role of trust in transformational leadership effects: Do different types of trust make a difference? The Leadership Quarterly, 24(1), 94–105.
About this article
Cite this article
Nekhili, M., Chakroun, H. & Chtioui, T. Women’s Leadership and Firm Performance: Family Versus Nonfamily Firms. J Bus Ethics 153, 291–316 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-016-3340-2
- Woman leadership
- Family firms
- Transformational leadership
- Contingency theory of leadership
- Propensity score matching