Discussion paper

DP15552 The Gender Gap Among Top Business Executives

This paper examines gender differences among top business executives using a large executive-employer
matched data set spanning the last quarter century. Female executives make up 6.2% of the sample and we
find they exhibit more labor market churning – both higher entry and higher exit rates. Unconditionally,
women earn 26% less than men, which decreases to 7.9% once executive characteristics, firm characteristics,
and in particular job title are accounted for. The paper explores the extent to which firm-level temporal
flexibility and corporate culture can explain these gender differences. Although we find that women tend
to select into firms with temporal flexibility and a female-friendly corporate culture, there is no evidence
that this sorting drives the gender pay gap. However, we do find evidence that corporate culture affects
pay gaps within firms: the within-firm gender pay gap disappears entirely at female-friendly firms. Overall,
while both corporate culture and flexibility affect the female share of employment, only corporate culture
influences the gender pay gap.


Keller, W, T Molina and W Olney (2020), ‘DP15552 The Gender Gap Among Top Business Executives‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 15552. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp15552