More CEOs are encouraging bosses to employ a woman leader in their companies – but looks like bosses are taking this quite literally.
Research by Cristian Desző, an associate professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, has found evidence of a “quota” effect when it comes to appointing women in top-tier jobs.
Once a woman is placed in a senior position in a company, the chances of a second woman landing an elite position at the same firm drop substantially – by about 50%.
Analysing top officers at 1,500 firms from 1991 to 2011, the study could not, however, conclude whether the “quota” effect was the result of a conscious discrimination or a subconscious thinking.
During the study, one possibility the authors explored was that the hiring of one woman would lead to a snowball effect at a given company.
“In fact, what we find is exactly the opposite,” Desző said. “Once they had appointed one woman, the men seem to have said, ‘We have done our job’.”
The report found the quota effect was especially strong when a woman was hired into a high-paid professional positions – such as head of human resources.
It explained those positions hold less power than “line positions” like division heads.
In other words, companies that promote a woman into a top professional job were especially unlikely to appoint another female executive.
Desző suggested that one implication of the study would be to apply continuous pressure on companies when trying to promote the presence of women in executive suites.
“They need to keep up the pressure or even apply more pressure,” he said.