Organizational and Environmental Determinants of Female Representation in Top Management Teams




Bonner, Robert Lee

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Women are drastically underrepresented in the most powerful non-CEO top management team (TMT) positions in organizations. According to Catalyst (2017), women represent only 9.5% of the top earners in S&P 500 organizations. Despite this discrepancy, a dearth in research exists addressing the determinants of women representation in non-CEO TMTs positions. Drawing on upper echelon theory (UET), I suggest that precarious and risky organizational and environmental contexts provide the necessary conditions whereby TMTs are willing to disrupt their cycle of "homosocial reproduction" (Boone, van Olfeen, van Witteloostuijn, & De Brabander, 2004). Using the underlying psychological and sociological factors present in the glass cliff phenomenon (i.e., women are more likely to be appointed to precarious leadership positions), I then suggest that beyond the compelling need for "diversity," these conditions provide a compelling need for "gender diversity" in TMTs. I argue that, when faced with risky and difficult organizational and environmental conditions, women are more likely to be appointed to non-CEO TMT positions. The implication of this dissertation is that, rather than just representing an "implicit quota," (Dezsö, Ross, & Uribe, 2016) women may in fact be overrepresented in difficult non-CEO TMT positions. As such, a confirmation bias occurs if or when their performance suffers (i.e., women are not up to the task), which in turn justifies the overall underrepresentation. This dissertation addresses needs in both UET and glass cliff research. First, it addresses the need to examine the antecedents to TMT composition and heterogeneity in UET research (Carpenter, Geletkanycz, & Sanders, 2004). Second, it addresses the need to examine the glass cliff phenomenon at the non-CEO TMT level of analysis with conditions beyond poor performance. I find mixed support for the hypothesized "glass cliff" relationships and evidence of the "window dressing" effect, which suggests that women are more likely to be appointed in organizations with higher slack resources. Together, these findings offer a complex view of the organizational and environmental determinants of women entering non-CEO TMT positions.


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Glass Cliff, Upper Echelons Theory