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Fed study shows little progress in integrating women into executive positions

March 14, 2019

A recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis showed that women’s increased participation in the labor force has not led to a correspondingly greater participation of women in the highest executive positions at the organizations where they work. In fact, the study showed that women are significantly less likely to lead U.S. businesses than men are, and that this share has remained largely unchanged over the 2000-2014 period.

The report set out to investigate the role played by women as entrepreneurs and executives in the private sector. Using data from the National Establishment Time-Series collected by Dun & Bradstreet, the authors found that all firms with a female CEO rose slightly, from 17.6 percent in 2000 to 18.8 percent in 2014. However, the share of women-led firms across new firms increased more significantly, rising from 19.7 percent to 24.1 percent over the same period. The study also showed that conditional on leading a business, women are more likely to be CEOs of smaller and younger firms than men.

The authors note that while the study showed differences between firms led by male and female CEOs, it does not explain the causes and that more research needs to be conducted.