Better in the Shadows? Public Attention, Media Coverage, and Market Reactions to Female CEO Announcements

Edward Craig Bishop Smith*, Jillian Chown, Kevin Gaughan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Combining media coverage data from approximately 17,000 unique media outlets with the full population of CEO appointments for U.S. publicly traded firms between 2000 and 2016, we investigate whether female CEO appointments garner more public attention compared with male appointments, and if so, whether this increased attention can help make sense of the previously reported negative market reaction to these events. Contrary to prior reports, our data do not indicate that the appointments of female CEOs elicit overly negative market reactions, on average. Our results do highlight an important moderating role of public attention, however. We demonstrate that greater attention—even when exogenously determined—contributes to negative market reactions for female CEO appointments but positive market reactions for male CEOs, all else held constant. Additionally, female CEO appointments that attract little attention garner significant positive responses in the market, compared with both male CEOs drawing similarly limited levels of attention and female CEOs drawing high levels of attention. Our results help to reconcile contrasting empirical findings on the effects of gender in executive leadership and parallel recent work on anticipatory bias and second-order discrimination in alternative empirical contexts. Implications for research on attention, gender bias, and executive succession are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-149
Number of pages31
JournalSociological Science
StatePublished - 2021


  • attention
  • CEO
  • economic sociology
  • gender
  • prejudice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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