Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 321–334 | Cite as

Gender-based Barriers to Senior Management Positions: Understanding the Scarcity of Female CEOs

  • Judith G. Oakley


Although the number of women in middle management has grown quite rapidly in the last two decades, the number of female CEOs in large corporations remains extremely low. This article examines many explanations for why women have not risen to the top, including lack of line experience, inadequate career opportunities, gender differences in linguistic styles and socialization, gender-based stereotypes, the old boy network at the top, and tokenism. Alternative explanations are also presented and analyzed, such as differences between female leadership styles and the type of leadership style expected at the top of organizations, feminist explanations for the underrepresentation of women in top management positions, and the possibility that the most talented women in business often avoid corporate life in favor of entrepreneurial careers.

CEO gender leadership management senior women 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Judith G. Oakley
    • 1
  1. 1.Maine Business SchoolUniversity of MaineOronoU.S.A.

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