Corporate Leadership and Inherited Beliefs About Gender Roles

R. David McLean, Christo Pirinsky, and Mengxin Zhao

Some U.S. firms have women directors and executives, while many do not. We seek to explain this heterogeneity. Using U.S. Census data from 1900, we find that firms in regions with populations originating from countries with more gender-egalitarian beliefs have more women executives and directors, and more women chairing important board committees. These same regions also have more women in the labor market and in STEM occupations, and lower gender-pay gaps. Our findings show that regional differences in beliefs about gender roles are persistent and have significant impacts on corporate leadership and the labor market.