Gender-inclusive gatekeeping: How (mostly male) predecessors influence the success of female CEOs

Priyanka Dwivedi, Aparna Joshi, Vilmos F. Misangyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Male-typed leadership schemas have been widely acknowledged as barriers to women's success in leadership roles. We explore how local organizational agents and contexts enable women leaders to overcome these barriers and achieve success at the highest levels in firms. Specifically, we focus on chief executive officer (CEO) succession events and study how several facets of predecessor CEOs and the succession context combine to influence incoming women's post-succession performance. We conduct a qualitative comparative case study of all CEO successions that involved female successors between 1989 and 2009 across the largest corporations in the United States. Our findings suggest that women's success occurred when a confluence of local firm-level factors and attributes of the (mostly) male predecessors promoted gender-inclusive gatekeeping during succession. Our qualitative comparative analysis approach reveal three recipes for female success: “handing over the legacy,” “partnering the legacy,” and “turning around the legacy.” Moreover, a comparison to a matched-sample of men CEO succession events shows that these three recipes for success are unique to women. Based upon our findings, we propose that male predecessors' gender-inclusive gatekeeping facilitates female leaders' success and occurs when local enabling conditions and the embedded context enact agentic and structural mechanisms to alter leadership schemas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-404
Number of pages26
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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