BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y., April 26, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Today, the Academy of Management, the largest global association devoted to management and organization research, published a new study that found the success of female CEOs can be influenced by their mostly male predecessors. Under specific conditions and by leveraging their own status and power within an organization, predecessor CEOs can be a formidable force in facilitating the subsequent success of female CEOs.

Published by the Academy of Management Journal, the study “Gender-Inclusive Gatekeeping: How (Mostly Male) Predecessors Influence the Success of Female CEOs,” was written by professor Priyanka Dwivedi of Texas A&M University, Mays Business School and professors Aparna Joshi and Vilmos F. Misangyi of Pennsylvania State University, Smeal College of Business. They studied how several facets of predecessor CEOs and the succession context combine to influence the incoming female CEOs’ post-succession performance. The authors conclude that although female leaders were not solely reliant for their success on their male predecessors, predecessor CEOs can potentially leverage varying levels of influence and power within an organization to craft structures and display behaviors that counteract the long-standing gender stereotypes in the workplace and contribute to incoming female CEOs’ success.

The authors conducted a case study of every CEO succession event involving women at the largest corporations in the United States over 20 years. Although not all predecessors were gender inclusive, through their research, the authors identified three formulae unique to female CEOs and were not found among a comparable set of male CEOs. These three formulae incorporate a complex set of factors that combine to ensure gender-inclusion in the upper echelons:

Handing over the legacy: A powerful, long-term predecessor sponsors a long-serving female successor from within the firm, completely hands over the reins of power to her and then leaves the company.
Partnering the legacy: A long-term predecessor transitions their CEO role to a long-serving female successor who he has sponsored from within the firm, but remains on the company’s board of directors (often as Chairman) to serve as a partner to the female successor.
Turning around the legacy: A powerful, long-term predecessor transitions the CEO role of a poorly performing firm to a long-term female protégé successor, and continues to act as a mentor to the female successor while maintaining their role as Chairman of the Board.
“We operate in a world where just 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women,” said Dwivedi. “CEO successions are challenging separate and apart from gender dynamics and our research demonstrates that it is crucial for male CEOs and boards to ensure a culture of inclusivity at the highest levels of an organization when passing the reigns to a female successor in order to set her up for success.”