Navigating CEO appointments: do Australia's top male and female CEOs differ in how they made it to the top?

Fitzsimmons, Terrance William (2011). Navigating CEO appointments: do Australia's top male and female CEOs differ in how they made it to the top? PhD Thesis, UQ Business School, The University of Queensland.

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Author Fitzsimmons, Terrance William
Thesis Title Navigating CEO appointments: do Australia's top male and female CEOs differ in how they made it to the top?
School, Centre or Institute UQ Business School
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-09
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status Other
Supervisor -
Total pages 319
Total black and white pages 319
Language eng
Subjects 15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Formatted abstract
Presently only three per cent of Australia’s top two hundred listed public companies have a female Chief Executive Officer (CEO) (EOWA, 2010). This thesis examines the reasons for this gender disparity through a program of qualitative studies. It aimed to gain a more comprehensive and robust understanding of the factors behind gender disparity, by gaining the views of a broad cross section of people and institutions in Australian organisations.

The thesis utilised a Bourdieusian framework. The framework requires a systematic series of studies designed to uncover the relationship between the ‘cultural capital’ valued by a particular ‘field’ and the ‘habitus’ or lived experience of the participants who generate this ‘capital’. Bourdieu asserted that the degree of convergence between the ‘cultural capital’ possessed within the ‘habitus’ of an individual and that which is valued by the ‘field’ determines the likely success (or lack of success) of its possessor in that ‘field’. The Bourdieusian framework is uniquely suited to examining how stratified social systems, typified by hierarchy and the domination of one group by another, can reproduce inter-generationally without widespread resistance. The framework is designed to uncover how individuals or groups are constrained by systems generated by fields in acquiring valuable capital.

In Study 1, the legislation and pronouncements of key institutions in the field were analysed to establish the structure and hierarchy of power. Results showed that the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) are the dominant institutions in the field. Boards of Australian companies operate under powerful legislative imperatives in a heavily compliance driven field while attempting to deliver appropriate shareholder returns. These legislative factors heavily influence board decisions surrounding CEO selection.

In Study 2, thirty interviews were conducted with the senior partners of executive recruitment firms across Australia. The findings from the interviews reinforced the position that boards ensure compliance and shareholder returns by seeking CEOs with personal and technical capitals that are aligned to peak institutional requirements.

In Study 3, thirty listed public company chairpersons were interviewed to determine their ranking of valued capitals. The capitals required by boards were strongly aligned with those identified in Study 1 and 2. Chairpersons required that the CEO had demonstrated specific capitals in a senior line role within their industry. The CEOs were preferenced by their ability to deliver on industry contextual strategy and their chairperson’s preferences for how the CEO/chair relationship should be conducted.

In Study 4, thirty-one female and thirty male CEOs were interviewed to investigate their life history and path to the CEO role. Male and female CEOs had very different early life histories. Major differences existed in the division of domestic labour with their partners and its impact upon capital accumulation. Male and female CEOs shared experiences of positive mentoring and effective networking. However, mentors played a far more significant role in the early careers of female CEOs through the provision of leadership and self-efficacy capital. Additionally, female CEOs needed to move more often between positions and industries to reach the CEO role.

A key contribution of the thesis is the finding surrounding the critical importance of early childhood experiences and the role they play in the formulation of career relevant capital. This finding challenges the idea that businesses are primarily to blame for gender inequity in leadership roles within the corporate field. Gendered role assignments in childhood not only give rise to disparate accumulation of valuable capital, resulting in diminished ability to acquire further capital, they also establish broad expectations about the behaviours of men and women that give rise to both prejudice and discrimination which act to magnify the disparate accumulation of valuable capital. A further unique contribution of the thesis was the finding that gender differential capital accumulation patterns have resulted in the majority of female CEOs in Australia being appointed due to their contextual rather than industry experience.
Keyword Gender

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Created: Mon, 21 Nov 2011, 09:48:49 EST by Terrance Fitzsimmons on behalf of Library - Information Access Service