A Configurational Exploration of How Female and Male CEOs Influence Their Compensation

Krista B. Lewellyn, Maureen I. Muller-Kahle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The issues of excessive CEO compensation and gender pay gaps garner much attention from management scholars and the general public. In this study, we integrate these topics and explore the complex interdependent nature of how CEOs influence directors’ evaluative perceptions about appropriate levels of CEO compensation and whether female and male CEOs do so in different ways. Drawing from role congruity theory and previous research on executive compensation, we use a configurational approach to identify how CEOs achieve high levels of compensation through different combinations of influence arising from their power, origin, tenure, similarities with evaluators, and organizational conditions. Using fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis with a matched pair sample of female and male CEOs from 2010 to 2016, we find there are multiple configurations of influence conditions by which female and male CEOs achieve high compensation. Our inductive analysis, unpacking how these configurations differ between female and male CEOs, shows four distinct influence mechanisms: leveraging power and role empathy, trailblazer responsibility, leveraging power and similarity, and leveraging role empathy. These mechanisms highlight the ways influence conditions complement or mutually reinforce one another in different ways for female and male CEOs. Implications for theory and research about the unique challenges female executives face in achieving equitable treatment in the workplace are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2031-2074
Number of pages44
JournalJournal of Management
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Finance
  • Strategy and Management


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