Working Paper No. 1111

What Prevents Women from Reaching the Top?

Published: February 18, 2016, revised September 2017, March 2018 and March 2019Pages: 60Keywords: CEOs; Top executives; Gender gap; Career; Family; QualificationsJEL-codes: G34; J16; J24; J31

What Prevents Women from Reaching the Top? Matti Keloharju, Samuli Knüpfer and Joacim Tåg

We use exceptionally rich data on all business, economics, and engineering graduates in Sweden to study women’s career progression and its causes. A wide range of observables do not explain the lack of women in top executive positions.

Instead, slow career progression in the five years after the first childbirth substantially contributes to the female disadvantage. During this period, women work on average shorter hours than men and are more often absent from work. Among the minority of graduates who eventually reach an executive position, women appear to be better qualified than men. Aspiring women may thus need to outperform men to overcome the barriers related to family life.





Joacim Tåg


Ph: +46 8 665 4524

Matti Keloharju


Ph: +358 40 353 8043

Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union and the Return of the Nation State


This book explores the complex and ever-changing relationship between the European Union and its member states. The recent surge in tension in this relationship has been prompted by the actions of some member state governments as they question fundamental EU values and principles and refuse to implement common decisions seemingly on the basis of narrowly defined national interests.

About the book


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