Female corporate leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean region

Luca Flabbi (Department of Economics, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA)
Claudia Piras (Social Sector, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)
Scott Abrahams (Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Publication date: 4 September 2017

Abstract

Purpose

Despite gender parity in the general working population, the higher up one looks in ranks within the firm the fewer women one finds. This under-representation of women in top positions at firms is purportedly even more acute in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). LAC is a large and increasingly important region of the world where women are well-represented in the workforce and are comparatively better educated than men. Documenting if this resource is utilized at full potential is therefore of crucial importance. The purpose of this paper is to document the level and impact of female representation at the executive level in the region, as no systematic study exists on this topic.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors collect an original database of publicly listed companies to determine prevailing gender ratios among board members and executives in LAC region. The authors then estimate whether companies with women board members are more likely to appoint women executives. Finally, the authors estimate whether measures of female leadership at the firm are correlated with company performance.

Findings

The authors find that women are as under-represented in LAC as in the USA, but much less so in the Caribbean. The authors find that companies with women board members are more likely to appoint women executives in LAC. The authors find that measures of female leadership at the firm are correlated with company performance but only regarding board membership and only when the proportion of women on the board is greater than 30 percent. Again composition effects are important. Overall, the authors conclude that the LAC region exhibits empirical regularities about under-representation of women in leadership positions at the firm that are very similar to those found for high-income countries in Europe and North America.

Originality/value

The authors are the first and so far unique systematic study exists able to document the level and impact of female representation at the executive level in the region.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Julián Caballero for his expertise in working with data from Bureau van Dijk, and Rodrigo Mariscal for excellent research assistance. Partial funding from the ESW RG-K1321 grant at the IDB is gratefully acknowledged. The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), its Board of Directors, or the countries they represent.

Citation

Flabbi, L., Piras, C. and Abrahams, S. (2017), "Female corporate leadership in Latin America and the Caribbean region", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 38 No. 6, pp. 790-818. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJM-10-2015-0180

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Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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